Tropical Storm Michael brings warnings, heavy winds, rain, flooding to the Carolinas

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Tropical Storm Michael continues to target eastern North Carolina as it rumbles across the southeastern United States, bringing with it storm-force winds, flooding rain and a potential for “life threatening flash flooding,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm was about 250 miles southwest of Raleigh at 5:30 a.m., said a National Weather Service in a tweet.

Among the first signs of trouble: just after 3 a.m. Thursday, tornado watches were issued in multiple South Carolina counties along the North Carolina border, including Union and York counties, south of Charlotte.

The watches expired at 7 a.m. but a new one was issued for the Burgaw/Rocky Mount area in eastern North Carolina about 8:30 a.m., after radar indicated rotation in a passing storm. The watch area included several miles of Interstate 40.

“Tornadoes will become likely later this morning and midday,” the National Hurricane Center predicted for eastern North Carolina. “Flash flooding will also be possible though the storm’s rapid motion should limit rainfall amounts.”

Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for all North Carolina counties in a line east of Boone and Asheville. Many of the same counties are also under flash flood warnings.

A Storm Surge Warning of possible rising water and “life-threatening inundation” is in effect for communities from Ocracoke Inlet to Duck on the N.C. coast.

A state of emergency has been declared in both Carolinas, in anticipation of storm-related damage and power outages.

The former hurricane continued to have sustained winds of 50 mph Thursday morning, as it moved through lower South Carolina.

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Its track appears to be through Columbia, South Carolina, then to Raleigh, at a speed of about 21 mph, says the National Hurricane Center.

The Weather Channel is predicting “widespread power outages” along the path of the storm through the southeast, including Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham metro areas.

Two deaths have been linked to the storm, and people were reportedly still trapped in some homes in the Florida Panhandle early Thursday, officials told the Weather Channel.

Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds when it made landfall at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday near Mexico Beach on Florida’s Panhandle.

Wind gusts just under 120 mph were reported in Panama City as the storm moved inland, reported the National Hurricane Center.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs