Many residents didn't heed evacuation warnings and didn't anticipate how high and fast the waters would rise. USA TODAY

At least five people are dead because of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to Tropical Storm Florence, including a mother and her infant child who died after a tree fell on a house in Wilmington.


ASHEVILLE — Tropical Storm Florence is expected to reach parts of Western North Carolina this weekend with the heaviest of its rainfall projected for Sunday, Lauren Carroll, a weather service meteorologist, said Saturday.

Carroll said Buncombe County should expect 4-6 inches of rain this weekend with some higher terrain areas looking at 8-10 inches. Winds are projected to max out Saturday at 20-25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph, she said. 

"(Winds) do die down by Sunday morning for the most part," Carroll said, "and that’s when the heavy rainfall threat ramps up."


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Carroll added that Sunday is going to be "the main event" for Florence in WNC. She said heavy rainfall is likely in about a six-hour period, which could lead to some flash flooding.

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There's also concern about main stem rivers — such as the French Broad River — flooding, she said.

Florence was downgraded Friday from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm. It had been characterized as severe as a Category 4 hurricane earlier this week before it hit the coast of the Carolinas.

In its 5 p.m. Saturday update, the National Hurricane Center said Florence would gradually weaken as it moved inland. It was crawling through the Carolinas at 2 mph.

The hurricane center said the storm could cause "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding."

At least eight people are dead because of Florence, including a mother and her infant child who died after a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, local police say. A woman in Hampstead died after emergency crews could not reach her as she was having a heart attack.


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A fourth person was killed while plugging in a generator, and a fifth died when he was blown down trying to check on his hunting dogs in Lenoir County, Emergency Planner Samuel Kornegay told USA TODAY.

North Carolina's Department of Public Safety said Saturday there are about 789,000 power outages in the state. Duke Energy projected this week that up to 3 million people, or about 75 percent of its customers in the Carolinas, could experience an outage due to the effects of Florence.

USA TODAY contributed to this report.