Catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas and 106 mph winds caused by the arrival of Florence have left at least seven people dead and more than 950,000 without power.
The slow-moving storm — which began at sea as a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday, and has since been downgraded to a tropical storm — is currently parked over eastern North Carolina, FEMA said in a press conference on Saturday morning.
CNN reported Saturday that Florence has wiped out power to about 950,000 customers throughout the Carolinas.
Florence’s first two casualties were reported on Friday in Wilmington, North Carolina, when a tree fell through the roof of a home with a family of three inside at about 9:30 a.m., killing a mother and her 8-month-old infant. According to officials with the Wilmington Police Department, who confirmed the death in a statement to PEOPLE, the father was taken to the hospital with injuries.
One woman in Hampstead, North Carolina, died of a heart attack when first responders weren’t able to reach her in time “because of all the downed trees in the roadway,” Pender County public information officer Tammy Proctor told PEOPLE in a statement. “They were using a front-end loader to clear the roads. During that, a tree went into the windshield of that equipment.”
Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram said in a video update on the Lenoir County Emergency Services Facebook page on Friday that two people had died, both when they were outside in the rain. One was a 78-year-old male who was electrocuted in the rain as he tried to plug in his generator via two extension cords. Another was a 77-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest after he slipped and fell while trying to take care of his dogs.
Meanwhile, Carteret County Director of Emergency Services Stephen Rea confirmed to PEOPLE that two people in Harkers Island, North Carolina had died on early Friday. Details of their deaths were not immediately available.
Rescue teams are continuing to help those who hadn’t been able to evacuate prior to Florence’s landfall.
More than 100 people had already been saved on Friday morning from the coastal town of New Bern, North Carolina. Officials told residents on Twitter that the Neuse River was expected to experience an 11-foot storm surge.
“WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” they said. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.”
Overnight, an additional 385 people were rescued in the town of New Bern, public information officer Colleen Roberts told ABC News. About 100 others are still in need of rescue there.
In Onslow County, North Carolina, there are still 200 to 300 people looking for rescue, county manager David Cotton told Good Morning America on Saturday.
“We’re not going to stop until we reach all of these folks and get them to a safe shelter,” he said, adding that “significant rainfall” led to “countywide flooding,” therefore “deteriorating” conditions and negatively impacting rescue operations. “Right now we are actively in the process of rescuing those that we can reach and we have a plan to reach the rest.”
Gov. Roy Cooper told Today on Friday that Florence was “an uninvited brute who just won’t leave.”
“We have a significant storm surge that’s pressing against a big river with historic rains on top of that. That water has nowhere else to go,” Cooper said. “Even when the storm moves through, the rivers will continue to rise. We can’t be complacent when the sun comes out because this rain is going to increase the levels of our rivers, some of them predicted to get to historic levels. We know there will be flooding in the weeks after the storm. … We know that people will be without power for days, and sometimes maybe for weeks.”
The National Weather Service reported on Saturday that a record 30.58 inches of rain was recorded in Swansboro, North Carolina — making it the most rain from a tropical cyclone. Those numbers are expected to rise throughout the day.
Forecasters are also anticipating landslides near the Appalachians, the National Weather Service reported.