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Hurricane Florence has begun battering the North Carolina coast with heavy rain, high winds and quickly rising storm surge.
Storm surge waters were seen damaging beachfront homes north of Wilmington, North Carolina in Topsail Beach on Thursday evening.
Thursday - Night - Neuse - River - Banks
On Thursday night, the Neuse River burst its banks, causing rapid flooding in New Bern and forcing residents to flee as the entire city lost power.
Authorities fear that Florence's fury could push the surge up to 11 feet. Late Thursday, the storm was downgraded to Category 1 from Category 2 - though the deadly threat from wind and storm surges remained.
Frying - Pan - Tower - Observation - Post
At Frying Pan Tower, an observation post 32 miles off of the coast of North Carolina, a live video feed showed the storm's 100mph sustained winds ripping an American flag to shreds.
Police have suspended their services in Morehead City and other coastal cities, warning any residents who remain in the evacuation zone that they will be without emergency services until the storm passes.
North - Carolina - Power - Officials - Counties
In North Carolina, 156,068 have lost power, officials said. The top counties affected were Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender. Officials fear power losses could affect up to three million people.
The storm surge was expected to reach far inland along North Carolina's flat coastal plain.
Surge - Problem - Tonight - Surge - NC
'Storm surge is not just an 'ocean' problem tonight. Significant surge is expected to occur in the NC inlets and rivers, some areas in excess of 9 feet!' the National Weather Service said in a tweet.
In Wilmington, which could take a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
Storm - Surge - River - Linda - Smith
'We're a little worried about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now,' said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director. 'I am frightened about what's coming. We just want prayers from...
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