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At 7:15am ET, Florence officially made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, just outside Wilmington, as a hurricane packing 90mph top sustained wind speeds. However, its Category 1 classification doesn’t do justice to the power of the hurricane, as storm surge inundates the coast with up to 11 feet of water. Rainfall totals are expected to reach 40 inches in parts of the Carolinas.

As the storm crawls onshore, rescuers are racing to save those who didn’t heed evacuation orders. On Friday, 70 people staying at a hotel that started to crumble due to the storm were rescued too. Over 500,000 households have lost power already through Friday morning, with models still projecting another 2.5 million will lose power before the storm is over.

Latest on the storm

As of 11am ET, Hurricane Florence has weakened further due to interaction with land. The top sustained winds are just 80mph, barely classifying it as a hurricane. It’s expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm later on Friday.

A couple of days ago, models predicted that the hurricane could stall off of the coast of North Carolina and slowly sweep along the coast over an extended period. The good news from this morning is that this worst case scenario won’t come to pass. Florence will continue to weaken.

That said, the threat isn’t over for the Carolinas. Florence is still expected to move slowly through southern North Carolina and into South Carolina on Friday and Saturday. During its slow crawl, it’s expected to dump extreme amounts of rain and continue to drive a catastrophic storm surge.

The latest storm surge forecast still calls for 7-11 feet of surge from Cape Fear, NC to Cape Lookout, NC, “with locally higher amounts in the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo, and Bay Rivers.” Other parts of North Carolina are expected to get 6-9 feet of storm surge.

Worst-case forecasts were calling for the Carolina coast to get pounded by three days of rain from the hurricane. Thankfully, the storm has moved on-land and is expected to move through the Carolinas slightly faster than expected. Still, isolated rain totals of 30-40 inches are expected in parts of the Carolinas, and several locations in North Carolina have reported 14+ inches of rain already through Friday morning.

Rescues at hotels and homes

Overnight Friday morning, 70 people were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, NC, when officials became worried about the structural integrity of the hotel.

In New Bern, NC, a city fully under mandatory evacuation orders, rescue workers report having rescued 100 residents already with another 100 still waiting for rescue from the rising waters.

Flight cancellations continue

According to FlightAware’s flight cancellation tracker, as of 12:30pm on Friday 823 flights had been cancelled in the US for Friday with another 333 flights already cancelled for Saturday — a vast majority of these due to Hurricane Florence. By total number of flight cancellations for Friday, Raleigh-Durham (RDU) is the hardest hit with 230 cancellations, with Charlotte (CLT) racking up 217 cancellations. With its airport closed, Charleston, SC (CHS) is showing 138 cancellations on FlightAware, but there are likely even more as the flight cancellation tracker isn’t showing 100% of CHS flights cancelled.

Free and discounted lodging

Multiple hotels, resorts, campgrounds and individuals have opened up their doors to Hurricane Florence evacuees. Currently, over 300 Airbnb hosts are offering to host evacuees free of charge.

The Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, NJ has offered to host evacuees. That offer was so popular that the resort quickly filled up through Saturday. As of its latest update, it’s still open to hosting evacuees with IDs from affected areas starting Sunday night:

The Atlanta Motor Speedway has opened its campgrounds for those looking for shelter from the storm. “Dry RV and tent campers in the Legends Campground” are being offered free of charge. Full hookup sites are discounted to just $20 per night:

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