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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 19:38 GMT 20:38 UK


World: Americas

Floyd slackens on its way north

A man avoids a collapsed garage in Myrtle Beach, SC

Hurricane Floyd - which prompted the biggest-ever evacuation in the United States as it blasted in from the Bahamas - lost strength as it finally reached the US East Coast on Thursday.

More than 2.5 million people were evacuated from their homes from Florida to North Carolina as Floyd approached.

But by the time it reached Cape Fear, North Carolina, early on Thursday, Floyd had weakened - although it still brought winds of up to 175 km/h (110mph) and heavy rains.


The BBC's Sue Llewellyn: "The biggest problem is flooding"
By 11 am EDT (1500 GMT), the storm had moved north to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was moving north-northeast at about 40 kph (24 mph).

Overland, Floyd has slowed further and top wind speeds are now around 130 km/h (80 mph).

It has now been downgraded to a very strong category two storm, denoting storms which cause damage to roofs, windows and doors, felling trees and damaging mobile homes.


[ image: A dog in Wilmington was taking no chances with the weather]
A dog in Wilmington was taking no chances with the weather
When it hit the Bahamas last Wednesday, Floyd was classed a category four hurricane, and was close to being in the strongest category five.

Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey are the states likely to be affected next, with New York's Long Island expecting Floyd early on Friday.

Torrential rain

Before making landfall, Floyd had driven frightened residents from the coast and spread torrential rains and howling winds over a huge swathe of the eastern United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people lost power, traffic jams stretched for miles, shelters and hotels filled, and emergency officials from Florida to Massachusetts were on alert.

No casualties were reported in Wilmington, North Carolina as Floyd came ashore.

But two people are reported to have been killed in incidents related to the storm.


[ image: A car negotiates a fallen tree in Myrtle Beach]
A car negotiates a fallen tree in Myrtle Beach
More than 300mm (12 inches) of rain fell in Wilmington overnight and, despite finer weather on Thursday, police advised residents not to return to the town for at least 24 hours.

South Carolina and Virginia also saw heavy rain overnight.

Federal emergency teams - including medical personnel and search dogs - have been deployed the length of the threatened coastline.

"We have pre-positioned rescue teams in strategic areas," said Barbara Yagerman, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Click here to see a map of Hurricane Floyd's progress


The BBC's Rob Watson reports from Wilmington, North Carolina
More than 6,300 National Guard troopers have been mobilised in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

One death has been attributed to the storm in North Carolina when a car skidded on wet roads and crashed on Wednesday afternoon.

Another person was reported missing presumed dead after being swept away by floodwaters.

Have you been affected by Hurricane Floyd ? We want to hear about your experiences.

Click here to send us your accounts.

President Bill Clinton - who cut short a trip to New Zealand - has declared a federal state of emergency in the Carolinas, as well as Florida and Georgia.

"I hope that every citizen will heed the warnings of the officials and stay out of harm's way," Mr Clinton said, adding that the response to the crisis had proved that "the American spirit is stronger than the force of any storm".


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