Four peo­ple killed as Florence floods Caroli­nas

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN DREW

Ca­su­al­ties in­clude mother and baby, even as Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter down­graded it to a trop­i­cal storm

Florence crashed into the Carolina coast on Fri­day, felling trees, dump­ing about 90 cen­time­tres of rain on some spots and lead­ing to the death of four peo­ple be­fore it was down­graded to a trop­i­cal storm still ca­pa­ble of wreak­ing havoc.

The storm’s first ca­su­al­ties in­cluded a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, N.C. The child’s fa­ther was in­jured and taken to a hos­pi­tal.

In Pen­der County, N.C., a woman suf­fered a fa­tal heart attack; paramedics try­ing to reach her were blocked by de­bris. A fourth vic­tim was killed in Lenoir County while plug­ging in a gen­er­a­tor, ac­cord­ing to the Gover­nor’s of­fice.

“To those in the storm’s path, if you can hear me, please stay shel­tered in place,” North Carolina Gover­nor Roy Cooper said at a news con­fer­ence in Raleigh, adding that Florence would “con­tinue its vi­o­lent grind across the state for days.”

Florence had been a Cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­cane with 180-kilo­me­tre-an­hour winds on Thurs­day, but dropped to Cat­e­gory 1 be­fore com­ing ashore.

Af­ter land­fall, Florence slowed to a pace that would see the sys­tem likely lin­ger­ing for days. The U.S. Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter (NHC) down­graded it to a trop­i­cal storm but said life-threat­en­ing storm surges and cat­a­strophic fresh­wa­ter flood­ing were ex­pected over por­tions of North and South Carolina.

The storm surge, wa­ter pushed by a storm over land that would nor­mally be dry, “over­whelmed” the town of New Bern at the con­flu­ence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, Mr. Cooper said.

Parts of North and South Carolina were fore­cast to get as much as one me­tre of rain.

More than 60 peo­ple, in­clud­ing many chil­dren, were evac­u­ated from a ho­tel in Jack­sonville, N.C., af­ter strong winds caused parts of the roof to col­lapse. Many of the evac­uees had pets with them.

Maysie Baum­gard­ner, 7, shel­tered with her fam­ily at the Ho­tel Bal­last in down­town Wilmington as Florence’s flood­wa­ters filled the streets. “I’m a lit­tle bit scared right now,” she said, “but I have my iPad and I’m watch­ing Net­flix.”

Mr. Cooper said Florence was ex­pected to cover al­most all of North Carolina in sev­eral feet of wa­ter.

As of Fri­day morn­ing, At­lantic Beach, a town on the state’s Outer Banks bar­rier is­lands, had re­ceived 76 cm of rain, the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Ser­vice said.

About 51 cm were re­ported by early Fri­day af­ter­noon in the town of Ori­en­tal.

The cen­tre of the hur­ri­cane’s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. Eastern near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, with sus­tained winds of 150 km/h, the NHC said.

By late af­ter­noon, the cen­tre of the storm was about 32 km north­east of Myr­tle Beach, S.C,, with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 100 km/h.

Au­thor­i­ties in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 peo­ple that dates to the early 18th cen­tury, said more than 100 peo­ple had to be res­cued from floods. The down­town area was un­der­wa­ter.

Calls for help mul­ti­plied as the wind picked up and tide rolled in, city pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer Colleen Roberts said.

“Th­ese are folks who de­cided to stay and ride out the storm for what­ever rea­son, de­spite hav­ing a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion,” she said. “Th­ese are folks who are maybe in one-story build­ings and they’re see­ing the flood­wa­ters rise.”

Video taken in sev­eral towns in the Caroli­nas showed emer­gency per­son­nel wad­ing through thigh­high wa­ter.

The White House said on Fri­day Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would travel to the re­gion next week un­less his visit would dis­rupt cleanup and res­cue ef­forts.

Mr. Cooper said the state would ar­range a visit by Mr. Trump “at an ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

A tree crashed into Kevin DiLoreto’s home in Wilmington, where all roads lead­ing to his neigh­bour­hood were blocked by fallen trees. “It’s in­sane,” he said by tele­phone. “I’ve never seen tree dev­as­ta­tion this bad.

“Af­ter­wards, I’m go­ing to drink a bot­tle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I’m walk­ing the neigh­bour­hood mak­ing sure my neigh­bors are fine be­cause no­body can get in here.”

More than 722,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out power in the Caroli­nas early on Fri­day, util­ity of­fi­cials said. Util­ity com­pa­nies said mil­lions were ex­pected to lose power and restora­tion could take weeks.

The storm was ex­pected to move across parts of south­east­ern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Fri­day and Satur­day, then head north over the western Caroli­nas and cen­tral Ap­palachian Moun­tains early next week, the NHC said. Sig­nif­i­cant weak­en­ing was ex­pected over the week­end.

About 10 mil­lion peo­ple could be af­fected by the storm.

Florence was one of two ma­jor storms threat­en­ing mil­lions of peo­ple on op­po­site sides of the world. Su­per Typhoon Mangkhut was ex­pected to hit an area in the Philip­pines on Satur­day that would af­fect 5.2 mil­lion peo­ple.

Prepar­ing for the worst, about 9,700 Na­tional Guard troops and civil­ians were de­ployed with high-wa­ter ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters and boats that could be used to pluck peo­ple from the flood­wa­ters.

Au­thor­i­ties warned, too, of the threat of mud­slides and the risk of en­vi­ron­men­tal havoc from flood­wa­ters wash­ing over in­dus­trial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a ma­jor test for the U.S. Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, which was heav­ily crit­i­cized as slow and un­pre­pared last year for Hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths in the des­per­ate af­ter­math.

The NHC said Florence will even­tu­ally make a right hook to the north­east over the south­ern Ap­palachi­ans, mov­ing into the mid-At­lantic states and New Eng­land as a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion by the mid­dle of next week.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ryan Maue of weath­er­mod­els.com said Florence could dump a stag­ger­ing 18 tril­lion gal­lons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Vir­ginia, Ge­or­gia, Ten­nessee, Ken­tucky and Mary­land. That’s enough to fill the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay or cover the en­tire state of Texas with nearly 10 cm of wa­ter, he cal­cu­lated.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

Vol­un­teers help res­cue res­i­dents from their flooded homes in New Bern, N.C., on Fri­day as Florence wreaks havoc across the Caroli­nas. The storm could linger for days.

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