Hurricane Florence is bearing down on North Carolina but not as much as one weather reporter would have you believe.
A local reporter has been panned online for hamming up just how strong the winds were during a live TV cross. As he stands, legs apart, bracing himself against the wind and appearing to struggle just a bit, two other young men casually walk by in the background — somewhat breaking the illusion.
A video of the moment has spread like wildfire online. While the reporter has faced scorn from some, for others it brought much needed comedic relief during the deadly storm, reports news.com.au.
The hurricane has claimed its first victims as it crashed into North Carolina, making landfall near Wrightsville Beach.
Blowing ashore with howling 155km/h winds, Hurricane Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.
At least four people were killed.
The Wilmington Police Department confirmed on Twitter that a mother and infant were killed in the incident. The father was taken to hospital with injuries.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 840,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend.
"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave," said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
The hurricane was "wreaking havoc" and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days," the governor said. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 meters.
After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometers east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakening to 112 km/h as it pushed inland. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
"I see a biblical proportion flood event that's going to occur," Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous told ABC News.
"I see the beach communities being inundated with water and destruction that will be pretty, pretty epic in nature."
"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave."
Officials have been begging holdouts in evacuation zones to seek shelter, including a police chief on a barrier island in Florence's bullseye who asked for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused warnings to leave.
Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain. The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 50 centimeters just a few hours into the deluge. Other communities got well over 30 centimeters.
The flooding soon spread into South Carolina, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses. For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.
Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Fast response crews from California, Florida and New England have converged on the Carolinas to be ready to move into damaged areas once it's safe to do so.
Inflatable Zodiac boats, all-terrain vehicles and mini-bikes are among the equipment some teams such as the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron brought in. The Virginia National Guard has 1,200 personnel ready to respond for missions including high water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and search and rescue.
About 1,600 animals at the North Carolina Zoo are hunkered down, with zoo workers moving swiftly to get elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and hundreds of other species indoors to safety. But spokeswoman Diane Villa says some animals, including bison and elk, will stay in fenced-in yards instead of barns because they don't like being in fully enclosed spaces.
A crew of zookeepers, veterinarians and park rangers will ride out the storm with the animals.
Scientists can't say — yet — that climate change helped make Florence worse. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster due to human-caused warming.
Studies also have shown that storms are moving more northward and slower both issues in Florence.