Keep your raincoats handy as more wet weather kicks in this weekend

TVNZ weather presenter Dan Corbett gives the latest update. Source: 1 NEWS



At least five people dead as tropical storm Florence spreads to South Carolina

Blowing ashore with howling 155 km/h winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. At least five people were killed.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 30 centimetres to 1 metre as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

As 645-kilometre-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbours awaited help. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.

Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the US electrical grid.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending," Cooper said. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 metres, he said.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth," he said.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakened to 112 km/h as it moved forward at 6km/h about 25 kilometres north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind. Several places already had more than 40 centimetres of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 50 centimetres in just a few hours.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

The flooding soon spread into South Carolina. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami says the core of Florence was located at 11pm Friday about 20 kilometres west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

Top sustained winds are now about 100 km/h and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 7 km/h — a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday.

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead.

As Florence moves further inland over the coming days, the storm is expected to gradually weaken. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, however, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared last year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at nearly 3,000.

The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 68 trillion litres of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with nearly 10 centimetres of water, he calculated.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 36 trillion litres, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 25 centimetres.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.

A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at nearly 170km/h, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Nationwide, airlines cancelled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city tweeted around 2am. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighbourhood during Florence's assault.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard, that trying to get out we got thrown into trailers. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees," said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and the experience left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me," she said. "We might leave."

The storm dropped 10 to 18 inches of rain along the North Carolina coast. Source: Associated Press

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Super Typhoon Mangkhut retains ferocious strength, changes path toward more populated area of Philippines

Super Typhoon Mangkhut has retained its ferocious strength and slightly shifted toward more densely populated coastal provinces as it barrels closer to the northeastern Philippines, where a massive evacuation is underway.

More than 4 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

Forecaster Chris Perez says the typhoon was initially expected to hit the northern tip of Cagayan province but it's now likely to make landfall farther south. He says the shift won't cause much difference because of the typhoon's massive size.

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts it will plow into the Chinese mainland with sustained winds of 175 kilometres per hour.

Filipino forecaster Meno Mendoza illustrates the path of Typhoon Mangkhut, locally named "Typhoon Ompong" as it approaches the Philippines with sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Philippine officials say they plan to evacuate thousands of villagers, shut down schools and offices and scramble to harvest rice and corn as the most powerful typhoon so far this year menacingly roars toward the country's north. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Typhoon Mangkhut. Source: Associated Press

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Watch: Storm chaser captures petrol pump canopy collapsing during Hurricane Florence - 'There it goes, boom'

A storm chaser has filmed the destructive power of Hurricane Florence, as he captured a petrol station pump canopy collapsing in the ferocious winds.

The dramatic images were livestreamed on the Tornado Alley Video YouTube channel this afternoon as Category 2 Hurricane Florence begins to batter North Carolina.

The storm chaser was parked in his car near a BP petrol station when the canopy collapsed in front of him.

"There it goes, boom!" he exclaimed as the canopy came down with a mighty crash.

Around 100,000 properties have been reported to have lost power in the massive hurricane.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says there are over 12,000 people in 126 shelters as the first effects of Hurricane Florence begin to batter the state.


Cameraman hangs on grimly as he's swept away by Hurricane Florence storm surge in North Carolina

A cameraman has been filmed clinging on as a storm surge from Hurricane Florence swept him off his feet at a North Carolina beach.

The cameraman from Live Storm Media can be seen in the video holding his camera as he’s dragged past a house at North Topsail Beach.

Eventually, he manages to cling on to the ground behind a tree.

The surge was caused by the outer bands of wind and rain from a weakened but still lethal Hurricane Florence.

The monster storm is set for a prolonged and potentially catastrophic drenching along the Southeast coast.

Florence's winds had dropped from a peak of 225 kph to 165 kph by midmorning, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.

But forecasters warned that the widening storm — and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day — will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours.

"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm," National Hurricane Centre Director Ken Graham said. "The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that."

It’s predicted the fierce weather system will linger over the Carolina coast for days, not hours. Source: 1 NEWS

As of 3am (New Zealand time), Florence was centred about 230 kilometres southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 17 kph. Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometres from its centre, with tropical-storm-force winds of up to 315 kilometres.

Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore Saturday morning around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Then it is likely to hover along the coast Sunday, pushing up to nearly 4 metres of storm surge and unloading water on both states.

The forecast calls for as much as 102 centimetres of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the centre of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.

The result could be similar to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farms and industrial sites.