President Trump will travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence as soon as rescue and recovery efforts allow, the White House said Friday as the storm claimed its first victims, including a mother a child.
Trump cancelled two campaign rallies this week in advance of the storm in Missouri and Mississippi at which he’d planned to stump for Republicans competing in the mid-terms. His campaign efforts remained on pause heading into the weekend as the storm ransacked the Carolinas.
The president was due to receive an emergency preparedness update in the Situation Room in the afternoon. He had nothing else, aside from his regular intelligence briefing, on his daily schedule.
President Trump will travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence as soon as rescue and recovery efforts allow, the White House said Friday as the storm claimed its first victims, including a mother a child
Cooped up inside in Washington, where the storm carried spitting rain and light winds, the president shared information on Twitter from federal agencies about their emergency services.
‘Incredible job being done by FEMA, First Responders, Law Enforcement and all. Thank you!’ the president on Friday morning tweeted.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said later in a statement that Trump would visit states that were hit by the hurricane as soon as he could next week.
‘The President is expected to travel to areas affected by the storm early to middle of next week, once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts. We will keep you posted when we have details,’ the statement said.
Trump visited Texas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico last hurricane season to share his condolences with affected families and give emergency responders a pat on the back.
Video of him flinging paper towel rolls to the needy in Puerto Rico angered some, including San Juan’s Democratic mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who said his behavior was disrespectful. The president’s wife, Melania, was harangued on another day trip for leaving the White House in heels when she was about to visit a flood zone.
She changed into sneakers before arriving in an area of Texas that was bone dry.
Trump visited Texas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico (seen here) last hurricane season to share his condolences with affected families and give emergency responders a pat on the back
Melania Trump was harangued on a day trip to tour storm-affected areas after she was photographed leaving the White House in stilletos
Storm fallout has had lingering effects for the president who disputed this week that 3,000 Puerto Ricans died this month last year as a result of Hurricane Maria. He gave his administration an A+ for its effort and called it an unsung success.
The administration worked overtime to avoid its past mistakes on Friday, with Trump staying behind closed doors and keeping his social media focused on relief efforts during the hours that make up his executive time.
Despite widespread warnings about the storm and the governmental efforts to prevent loss of life, a mother and her eight-month-old baby were amount four people to have died on Friday as Hurricane Florence battered North Carolina, with 18 trillion gallons of rain expected to fall in what the state’s governor called a ‘thousand-year’ event at a Friday press conference.
Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam were trapped inside their home in Wilmington after a tree fell onto the roof at around 9:30am (ET). Firefighters frantically tried to lift the tree so they could escape, but were unable to do so.
The baby’s father was rescued and stretchered into an ambulance but police declared the mother and baby dead at 2:30pm (ET). National Guard were called in to remove the shattered tree.
Murphy-Johnson’s death was confirmed to DailyMail.com by her ex-husband Doughty who was show her ID by authorities and asked to identify her.
Separately, a woman died of a heart attack in Pender County after medics were unable to reach her, officials announced on Friday afternoon. Another woman died while plugging in her generator in Lenoir County, officials said.
Florence is currently stalled over southeastern North Carolina, but is expected to drift further inland across the Carolinas on the weekend before turning toward the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Beyond Friday’s 11-feet storm surges and flash floods stands days more destruction and human suffering, warned North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. ‘The sun rose this morning on an extremely dangerous situation and it’s getting worse,’ he told a press conference on Friday morning, branding the storm a ‘thousand-year rain event.’
The dire warnings were echoed by Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, who told ABC News: ‘I see a biblical proportion flood event that’s going to occur. I see the beach communities being inundated with water and destruction that will be pretty, pretty epic in nature.’
Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam were trapped inside their home in Wilmington after a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am (ET)
Firefighters frantically tried to lift the tree (pictured) so the pair could escape from their home, but were unable to do so
Waves lash a wooden walkway on the North Carolina coast, where Florence made landfall at around 7.30am on Friday
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence on Friday
The father of the baby was also in the house when the tree fell. Rescue workers were able to free him and taken him to hospital in an ambulance
Members of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4 from Oakland, California, and soldiers from the North Carolina National Guard 105th Military Police Battalion from Asheville search homes for evacuees on Friday
This satellite map, captured on Friday at 8am (ET) shows Florence making landfall on the east coast. The outline of the shoreline has been drawn over the image to show the storm’s location
Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7:15 am. At least 26,000 people sought refuge in shelters in the state and 625,000 homes and businesses were reported to be without power.
There were three inches of rain falling every hour shortly after the storm hit land and 80mph winds sparking an 11-foot storm surge.
Over seven days, 18 trillion gallons of rain is expected to fall across the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. The wind speed has dropped slightly from 90mph when it made landfall to 75mph as of 2pm ET.
At a press conference Friday afternoon New Hanover County manager Chris Coudriet said: ‘The eye wall has moved through the area.
‘It continues to rain. The storm surge and inland flooding will continue to be an issue in our community. The worst of the storm has not yet passed. We are still concerned about storm surge along our ocean front and in some of our inland estuaries as the backside of this storm continues to bring storm surge in.
‘We are expecting 20 inches or less of rain in New Hanover County.’
More than 60 people including children had to be pulled from a collapsing motel in Jacksonville at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were waiting to be rescued.
The hurricane knocked a basketball-sized hole in the wall of the Triangle Motor causing cinder blocks to crumble and the roof to fall down – while residents were still in their rooms. Fire crews had to force their way in and evacuate the guests to a shelter. None were hurt.
Rescue teams were also working to free around 150 to 200 people trapped in homes in New Bern as city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts warned that the storm surge will increase further as Florence passes over the area.
Some 150 to 200 people have already been rescued after the nearby Neuse River rose by 10 feet high since bursting its banks on Thursday.
The city warned that people ‘may need to move up to the second story’ but told them to stay put as ‘we are coming to get you.’ Some 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
In the besieged North Carolina city of New Bern alone, rescuers by midmorning Friday had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said.
Florence’s rain will reach 40 inches in some parts of the Carolinas, forecasters said. Rainfall totals will be similar to those in hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999, Chris Wamsley of the National Weather Service said Friday morning.
‘The only difference is, back then it was within 14 days,’ he said. With Florence, ‘we’re looking at the same amount of rainfall in three days.’
By mid-day Friday, airlines had canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday. That’s about half the flights in Raleigh and one in eight at Charlotte.
A before and after image of a scene in New Bern on Thursday shows the violent impacts of the storm, which deluged the area with flood waters
A before and after image of a scene in New Bern. Rescue teams were also working to free around 150 people trapped in homes in New Bern
Rescue workers pray on the quiet residential street in Wilmington, North Carolina, where a mother and her baby died on Friday
Firefighters were unable to remove the tree from the house in Wilmington on Friday and had to call in the National Guard (pictured)
Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home in James City on Friday
The volunteers moved the James City children to safety on Friday along a flooded highway. Hundreds of other people have had to call for emergency rescues in the area, officials said
Rescue workers pass the dog back to her owner after they were both rescued from their flooded James City property on Friday
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home in James City on Friday
Firefighters use a boat to rescue three people from their flooded home during the Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, on Friday
The members of Township No. 7 Fire Department and the civilian volunteers had a busy night on Thursday after the hurricane hit the area
Residents in this North Carolina town woke up on Friday morning to find a tree had fallen on the roof of a house. The storm is expected to cause $170 billion worth of damage, according to one prediction
Residents look at downed trees as Hurricane Florence passes over Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday. Officials are warning the hurricane could become even worse over the weekend
The awning of a BP gas station in Top Sall, North Carolina, is blown off as Hurricane Florence makes landfall on Thursday night
Even before Florence hit land, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported ‘life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds’ along the coast of the Carolinas leaving coastal streets inundated with ocean water.
Like an out of control freight train, Florence entered into Wilmington, a port city of 120,000 people on the North Carolina coast, and started pummeling the city.
The city was plunged into darkness after losing its power grid shortly after 5am during some of the fiercest wind bursts.
Damages are starting to appear as large swaths of the roof of Hotel Ballast, a downtown tourism staple, are being peeled off one by one and sucked out into the sky.
The Cape Fear River, which usually lazies from east to west through the city’s historic district, has been transformed into rapids.
As the day rose on Wilmington, residents discovered extensive damages. There are thousands of trees down in the city’s historic district. Most streets are unpassable as uprooted large oak trees lie across the road.
At this point, the entire city is without electricity as electric lines have been cut off by falling trees and ripped up gutters from homes litter the streets.
A tractor moves along a flooded road on the North Carolina coast, which was first hit by the storm at around 7.30am on Friday
Trees bend in the heavy winds as they are enveloped by surging waters after Hurricane Florence hit Swansboro in North Carolina on Friday
People were urged to avoid going out in their vehicles in Swansboro in North Carolina (pictured on Friday) over fears they could be swept away
A resident in New Bern, North Carolina, filmed the inside of their flooded home showing ocean water lapping at their feet as Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday
Mitchell Floor, left, holds a flashlight as Comfort Suites general manager Beth Bratz, center, and employee Dee Branch go to make coffee as Hurricane Florence rages in Wilmington Friday. 620,000 homes and businesses were reported to be without power as the outer band of the storm approached
Footage from television stations and social media showed raging waters hitting piers and jettys and rushing across coastal roads in seaside communities, including Topsail Beach, north of Wilmington, where storm surge waters damaged beachfront homes.
Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it’s unclear how many did.
The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
The top counties affected were Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender. Officials fear power losses could affect up to three million people.
In South Carolina, more than 400,000 people have evacuated the state’s coast and more than 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters, officials said.
Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
A map broadcast at 10am ET shows the expected progress of Hurricane Florence from Saturday to early on Monday morning
This National Weather Service map shows the probably wind speeds of the hurricane from Friday to 2am on Wednesday
Wind-whipped waves lash the coast at Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday. Nearly all residents had evacuated following warnings from officials
Forecasters say ‘catastrophic’ freshwater flooding is expected over parts of the Carolinas. Disaster relief teams are seen above
Michael Nelson uses a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River burst its banks on Thursday
Flamingos are evacuated as a part of Storm Florence preparations at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina
Donald Trump speaks during a hurricane meeting on Friday with the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Oval Office
Prisoners were affected, too. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
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.
The storm surge was expected to reach far inland along North Carolina’s flat coastal plain.
‘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.
At Frying Pan Tower, an observation post 32 miles off of the coast of North Carolina, a live video feed showed the Category 2 storm’s 100mph sustained winds ripping an American flag to shreds on Thursday
Portions of a boat dock and boardwalk were destroyed by powerful wind and waves in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, on Thursday
Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach as Hurricane Florence approaches the area on Thursday
Huge waves lashed the beaches of North Carolina on Thursday as the hurricane rolling in bringing heavy rain and dangerous winds
Early storm surges in New Bern caused the Neuse River to flood its banks on Thursday, nearly sixteen hours before Florence arrived
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro on Thursday
A pick-up truck pulls a trailer along a rainy road in Washington, North Carolina, nearly 16 hours before the hurricane struck the area
A truck drives through deep water after the Neuse River flooded the street in River Bend on Thursday. Officials in some areas urged people not to go out in their car as they could be swept away
Flooding is seen New Bern, North Carolina, after early storm surges caused the Neuse River to burst its banks as Hurricane Florence inched closer to the East Coast on Thursday
A sign warns people away from Union Point Park after it was flooded by the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina
The Hotel Ballast on the Cape Fear River was starting to show signs of structural damage (see ceiling) during the hurricane on Friday
In Wilmington, before it took a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
‘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 everyone.’
Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plans to close, even if power is lost. It had long lines on Thursday.
In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because ‘I just don’t think a lot of this is going to be here’ later.
Will Epperson, a 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but reconsidered due to its ferocity. Instead, they drove 150 miles inland to his mother’s house in Durham.
‘The anxiety level has dropped substantially,’ Epperson said. ‘I’ve never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked.’
In a flash bulletin at 11pm on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said that Florence was 50 miles south of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 60 miles southeast of Wilmington.
A child sits on a mattress at a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter on Thursday at Conway High School in Conway, South Carolina
Avair Vereen (left, with her fiance and one of her seven children) and her family took shelter at an evacuation shelter at Conway High School on Thursday. ‘We live in a mobile home so we were just like ‘No way.’ If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing. But we can’t replace us so we decided to come here’
An American Red Cross aid worker walks through the cafeteria at Conway High School which is being used as a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter on Thursday
Shianne Coleman (left) and Austin Gremmel walk in flooded streets as the Neuse River begins to flood its banks in New Bern, North Carolina, on Thursday
Linda Stephens checks out the weather as the force of Hurricane Florence is beginning to be felt on Friday in Myrtle Beach
Joyce Lilly, Marshall McNeil and Holly Tindall sit on the porch of their home in Myrtle Beach on Friday as they watch high winds caused by Hurricane Florence
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90mph and was moving northwest at six miles per hour.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves nearly 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore.
As the storm has slowed upon approach, official landfall – when the eye of the storm reaches the shore – is forecast to occur sometime overnight on Friday.
Winds and rain were arriving later in South Carolina, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded on Thursday. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
By Thursday night, the window to evacuate much of the North Carolina coast had closed, with officials saying that anyone who had not moved inland would have to shelter in place.
Forecasters said that given the storm’s size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Men pack their belongings after evacuating their house in New Bern, North Carolina after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded their street during Hurricane Florence on Thursday
Residents rush to escape as the water rises in New Bern on Thursday after storm surges pushed the Neuse River over its bank
Residents wade through deep floodwater to retrieve belongings from the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River went over its banks during in New Bern on Thursday
Russ Lewis looks for shells at Myrtle Beach, where conditions were fairly calm before the approach of Florence on Friday morning
Water from Neuse River starts flooding houses on Thursday as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina
HURRICANE FLORENCE IN NUMBERS
The outer bands of wind and rain from a weakened but still deadly Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday.
As the monster storm moves in for an extended stay, here is a breakdown by numbers:
- Florence clocked 90 mph winds on Thursday after it was downgraded to a Category 1
- The storm was already generating 83-foot waves at sea on Wednesday
- Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas
- Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina
- Potentially 10 trillion gallons of rain is expected in southern states in the next week
- An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory
- Up to 1.7 million people were ordered to evacuated ahead of the hurricane
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are ‘supplied and ready,’ and he disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
‘This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,’ Trump wrote.
‘If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!’
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.
Forecasters’ European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. That’s enough water to fill the Empire State Building nearly 40,000 times.
More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.