Florence drenches US east coast, 5 dead
Officials say weather pattern will dump as much as 76102 cm rain on North and South Carolinas and affect 10 million people
WILMINGTON: Authorities on Saturday warned residents displaced by a killer hurricane against returning home, as storm Florence dumped “epic amounts of rainfall” across the eastern United States, resulting in lifethreatening flooding.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told reporters that five deaths have been officially confirmed in his state, with several more under investigation.
The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house.
Florence made landfall on Friday as a Category 1 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 to shelters.
Cooper had a stark warning to any residents considering returning to their flooded home towns. “Don’t go back until this storm passes and you get the official all clear,” he said.
“Second, know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don’t typically flood. This 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 & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved “slowly, nearly stationary” over eastern North Carolina.
“The fact that there haven’t been more deaths and damage is amazing and a blessing,” said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington’s Winoca Terrace neighbourhood on Saturday.
In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges up to three metres, authorities were rescuing stranded residents and taking stock of damages.
“Right now we’ve rescued over 400 people. We still have about 100 that want to be rescued and we have about 1,200 in the shelters,” Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN.
More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.
Environmental groups are preparing to inspect waterways for toxic spills from coal-ash ponds and hog lagoons once the storm subsides. Waterkeepers said it plans to take airplane and boat trips near flooded industrial sites and gather water samples.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week “once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts”.
The military announced Saturday it 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” - civiliand equipped with light boats, canoes and air mattresses - who also turned up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues.
Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, after stalking the coastline for days.
Tornadoes remain a threat, with the NHC saying that “a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina.”
NORTH CAROLINA (In North Carolina, clockwise) Search and rescue workers rescue a man from floods caused by Hurricane Florence in River Bend; A man and his kitten, Survivor, rescued from floodwaters in New Bern; Volunteers from across the US help rescue residents from their flooded homes in New Bern.