Tropical Storm Florence: 'It's only the beginning'

(Video clips provided by CNN Newsource. Edited by Nick DiMarco)

National weather officials Friday afternoon warned despite four confirmed deaths and hundreds of water rescues caused by Hurricane Florence, "this is only the beginning."

The powerful hurricane was downgraded to a Tropical Storm Friday evening, although its slow-moving churn down the East Coast still tracked sustained 70 m.p.h winds.

"I do want to emphasize that this is only the beginning," Chris Wamsley, a spokesman for the National Weather Service said. "This is a very slow mover that will continue to trek along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline for the next 24 to 36 hours. It will not get to Columbia, South Carolina until Sunday midnight morning."

Parts of North Carolina were rocked by Florence's 90 mph peak wind speed. A mother and her infant child were killed by a toppled tree in Wilmington, North Carolina. A woman in Pender County died of a heath attack Friday, although rescuers could not reach her due to impassable roads caused by Florence. Another person died in Lenoir County while plugging in a power generator, officials said.

More than 650,000 people were left without power as of Friday evening.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a repeated warning to South Carolina residents in the wake of the devastation suffered by their northern neighbors.

"This is going to be a very trying period. This is something that we haven’t had before but I’m sure that it’s something that we are equal to," McMaster said. "We’re liable to have bridges that impassable, roads that washed out, flash floods, landslides in the mountains. Do not drive around the barricades. These are the same warnings and urgings we’ve been doing through. Be careful. Be smart."

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