Travel still dan­ger­ous in flooded ar­eas of North Carolina

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Gary D. Robert­son, Martha Wag­goner and Lan Su­d­er­man

BLADENBORO, N.C. — Travel re­mained dan­ger­ous Satur­day in south­east­ern North Carolina, where the gov­er­nor warned of “treach­er­ous” flood­wa­ters more than a week af­ter Hur­ri­cane Florence made land­fall, and urged res­i­dents to stay alert for flood warn­ings and evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

Gov. Roy Cooper said nine of the state’s river gauges are at ma­jor flood stage and four oth­ers are at mod­er­ate stage, while parts of In­ter­states 95 and 40 will re­main un­der­wa­ter for an­other week or more.

Emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cials said res­i­dents whose homes were dam­aged or de­stroyed will be­gin mov­ing into ho­tel rooms next week.

“Hur­ri­cane Florence has deeply wounded our state, wounds that will not fade soon as the flood wa­ters fi­nally re­cede,” Cooper said.

South Carolina also has or­dered more evac­u­a­tions as rivers con­tinue to rise in the af­ter­math of a storm that has claimed at least 43 lives since slam­ming into the coast more than a week ago.

The small farm­ing com­mu­nity of Ni­chols, South Carolina, about 40 miles from the coast, was com­pletely in­un­dated by wa­ter, Mayor Law­son Bat­ter said Satur­day. He called the sit­u­a­tion “worse than Matthew,” the 2016 hur­ri­cane that de­stroyed al­most 90 per­cent of the town’s 261 homes. Battle said flood­ing from Florence has wiped out the 150 or so homes re­built after­ward.

“It’s just a mess,” said Battle, who was await­ing a visit Satur­day from Gov. Henry McMaster. “We will try every­thing we can to come back ... but we need to have fed­eral and state help.”

Benetta White and David Lloyd were among 100 peo­ple res­cued with he­li­copters, boats and high-wheeled mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles dur­ing a six­hour op­er­a­tion in south­east­ern North Carolina’s Bladen County that lasted into Fri­day morn­ing — their sec­ond evac­u­a­tion in a week. White and Lloyd, who live in the North Carolina town of Kelly, were given lit­tle time Thurs­day night to evac­u­ate when the Cape Fear River came rush­ing onto their prop­erty.

By the time they loaded their van, they had to slog through waist-high, foul-smelling wa­ter to get to a neigh­bor’s pickup.

From there, they went to the town’s fire depart­ment and were taken by an Army truck to a shel­ter at a Bladen County high school.

“We had to evac­u­ate again, all over again, and got trapped in a bunch of wa­ter and al­most lost our lives,” said White.

North Carolina Emer­gency Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Michael Spray­berry said Satur­day that east­ern coun­ties con­tinue to see ma­jor flood­ing, in­clud­ing ar­eas along the Black, Lum­ber, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

The Cape Fear river is ex­pected to crest Sun­day and re­main at flood stage through early next week.

He said res­i­dents who regis­ter with the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency can be­gin mov­ing into ho­tels Mon­day. The pro­gram ini­tially will be open to res­i­dents in nine coun­ties, then will be ex­panded.

A FEMA co­or­di­na­tor said about 69,000 peo­ple from North Carolina al­ready have regis­tered for as­sis­tance.

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