Storm threat not over as ‘epic’ rain falls

The Australian - - WORLD -

NEW BERN: Au­thor­i­ties warned res­i­dents dis­placed by a killer hur­ri­cane yes­ter­day that its dev­as­ta­tion was far from over, as Florence dumped “epic amounts of rain­fall” across the south­east­ern US, bring­ing cat­a­strophic flood­ing and up to 13 deaths.

As of 11pm on Satur­day (1pm yes­ter­day AEST), max­i­mum sus­tained winds had weak­ened to near 64km/h, but the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre con­tin­ued to warn of “cat­a­strophic” flood­ing.

Most of the fatal­i­ties oc­curred in North Carolina, where of­fi­cials con­firmed eight vic­tims. They in­cluded three who died “due to flash flood­ing and swift water on road­ways”, the Du­plin County Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­ported.

A woman and her baby were among the first ca­su­al­ties, when a tree fell on their house, con­tribut­ing to a death toll that US me­dia said had reached 13 — 10 in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, ac­cord­ing to CNN.

Florence made land­fall on Fri­day as a cat­e­gory-one hur­ri­cane but has since been down­graded to a trop­i­cal storm, even as it con­tin­ued to wreak havoc along the east coast, down­ing trees and power lines and forc­ing 20,000 peo­ple to flee. Yes­ter­day some res­i­dents tried to re­turn home, driv­ing through flooded high­ways and armed with chain­saws to clear fallen trees cov­er­ing the road.

North Carolina Gover­nor Roy Cooper warned against such be­hav­iour as roads be­came in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous.

“All roads in the state right now are at risk of floods,” he said.

“As rivers keep ris­ing and rain keeps falling, the flood­ing will spread. More and more in­land coun­ties are is­su­ing manda­tory evac­u­a­tions to get peo­ple to safety quickly.”

He ear­lier said the storm sys­tem “is un­load­ing epic amounts of rain­fall: in some places, mea­sured in feet, not inches”.

In a sep­a­rate brief­ing, Steve Gold­stein of the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said some ar­eas had al­ready re­ceived 600mm of rain and could ex­pect up to 500mm more as the sys­tem moved “slowly, nearly sta­tion­ary” over eastern North Carolina.

In New Bern, a river­front city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges of up to 3m, res­i­dents took stock of the dam­age af­ter flood wa­ters be­gan re­ced­ing and au­thor­i­ties res­cued hun­dreds of peo­ple who had been stranded.

Charles Rucker, a re­tired teacher, had only spent five nights in his newly pur­chased house, built in 1830, when Florence struck.

“It was like a bul­let train com­ing through the liv­ing room. Noth­ing I ever ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore, I was truly scared,” he said.

Mayor Dana Out­law told CNN: “We have 4200 dam­aged homes.”

The doors of many homes suf­fered so much wind dam­age they ap­peared to have been kicked in, while the city’s beloved fi­bre­glass bear stat­ues, which are spon­sored by lo­cal busi­nesses, were float­ing down streets.

The White House said Don­ald Trump would visit hur­ri­cane-hit ar­eas this week “once it is de­ter­mined his travel will not dis­rupt any res­cue or re­cov­ery ef­forts”.

More than 800,000 homes in North Carolina were with­out power and 21,000 peo­ple were be­ing housed in 157 shel­ters across the state.

The mil­i­tary was de­ploy­ing nearly 200 sol­diers to as­sist in storm-re­lated re­sponse and re­cov­ery ef­forts, along with 100 trucks and equip­ment.

Be­sides fed­eral and state emer­gency crews, res­cuers were be­ing helped by vol­un­teers from the “Ca­jun Navy” — civil­ians with light boats, ca­noes and air mat­tresses — who also turned up in Hous­ton dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Harvey to carry out water res­cues.

Florence made land­fall in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, af­ter stalk­ing the coast­line for days.

AP

A ‘swift water res­cue crew’ pa­trols New Bern yes­ter­day

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