Florence downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, at least 4 dead in North Carolina

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Florence was downgraded from a category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. update.

The storm dropped to sustained winds of 70 mph. A category 1 hurricane must have winds of at least 74 mph.

The “erratic” storm made landfall Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach, as North Carolina first responders and the governor reported the first four deaths associated with the storm.

Wilmington police reported that a tree fell on a house, killing a mother and her child. Pender County Emergency Management reported that a woman died of a heart attack when emergency crews couldn’t reach her because of fallen trees. Gov. Roy Cooper’s office reported a person was killed plugging in a generator in Lenoir County.

“Torrential” rains are expected to continue, the National Hurricane Center said as of its 3 p.m. update, and “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North and South Carolina.

The storm was expected to dump 20 or more inches of rain in coastal cities, the NHC reported.