Hurricane Florence: The Latest Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in North Carolina as Florence comes ashore. The storm is moving slowly dumping lots of rain and causing flooding in many areas along the coast.
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Hurricane Florence: The Latest

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Hurricane Florence: The Latest

Hurricane Florence: The Latest

Hurricane Florence: The Latest

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Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in North Carolina as Florence comes ashore. The storm is moving slowly dumping lots of rain and causing flooding in many areas along the coast.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

NPR's Debbie Elliott has also seen her share of hurricanes. She joins us now from Raleigh, N.C., where she's watching Florence progress. And, Debbie, we just heard from people who basically opted out - right? - just said they're not going to leave before Hurricane Florence. Do you have a sense of how many people did evacuate?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: A lot, but that's a really hard number to track because, you know, you don't know who went where, and everybody doesn't report where they're going. We can look at shelter numbers. Officials say more than 20,000 people are staying in emergency shelters mostly in North Carolina but also some in South Carolina and Virginia. Then you have people who get out of the state, go stay with friends or relatives elsewhere or, you know, in other parts of the state. And then others will go to hotels. If you have a - you know, the resources, you can check into a hotel and sort of wait out the storm.

Here in Raleigh in my hotel downtown, I've been speaking with some evacuees today - a lot of them out walking their pets earlier today before the rain set in. I spoke with Pam Scott. She left New Bern, N.C., on Tuesday. Now, remember; New Bern is one of those communities that had a 10-foot storm surge. People had to be rescued by boats from their homes overnight, more than a hundred rescues. And it's still an issue there today. She was glad she left, but she says this whole experience has been very surreal.

PAM SCOTT: It's an experience - first-time experience. And I've only lived in New Bern for four months. And my husband wanted water. We moved from Michigan. And now he's got his water. And we decided to evacuate to here, although we were warned we won't be able to get back home for a while. But it's scary. But it - you know what? It's just stuff.

ELLIOTT: Just stuff - she's worried a little bit about photos that she put up high. Last she heard, there was about 2 feet of water in the homes in her neighborhood. And now she's really concerned about when it will be safe to go home and what she'll see when she gets there.

CORNISH: In terms of the storm itself, what are the conditions at this point? When might they let up?

ELLIOTT: Well, there's a sense that it's going to linger for days over North Carolina and South Carolina, then move on into Virginia. I'm more than a hundred miles inland, starting to get sheets of rain and gusty winds here in Raleigh. And that's going to continue to move westward. The rain is the real problem here - 20 to 30 inches in the forecast with even higher accumulation in some isolated areas. And that's not going to let up. Governor Roy Cooper says it's going to be a test of endurance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY COOPER: The sun rose this morning on an extremely dangerous situation, and it's getting worse. The storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days and be a major inland event as well.

ELLIOTT: He says now for some counties, that's a 500 to thousand-year flood event. It's wreaking havoc on travel. More than 20 roads are flooded and closed. There are more than 600,000 homes and businesses that don't have power, and those numbers are expected to go up. And right now the crews can't even get there to start the work until this storm goes away.

CORNISH: So what are city or state officials saying about how they're prepared to respond in the coming days?

ELLIOTT: Well, they say there's an unprecedented response ready to go and that crews are staged to help people everywhere. But the sheer scope of this is a challenge. If you think about it, 11 million people have been affected one way or another by some sort of weather watch or warning that's been associated with Hurricane Florence.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Debbie Elliott in Raleigh. Debbie, thank you.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome.

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