In wake of hurricane, chaos lingers in North Carolina

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Emery P. Dalesio and Martha Waggoner

LUM­BER­TON, N.C. — With flood­wa­ters from Hurricane Matthew on the rise, at least one North Carolina city ap­peared near chaos Mon­day, its po­lice sta­tion shut­tered and re­ports of spo­radic gun­fire in the air, and au­thor­i­ties wor­ried that more com­mu­ni­ties could end up the same way.

The storm is gone, but it left be­hind a wa­ter-logged land­scape where flood­ing was ex­pected to per­sist for the rest of the week. At least three rivers were fore­cast to reach record lev­els, some not crest­ing un­til Fri­day. In many ar­eas, the scene re­sem­bled a re­peat of Hurricane Floyd, which caused $3 bil­lion in dam­age and de­stroyed 7,000 homes as it skirted the coast in 1999.

Of­fi­cials were con­cerned that other cities could suf­fer the fate of Lum­ber­ton, a com­mu­nity of 22,000 peo­ple about 80 miles from the ocean.

The Rev. Vol­ley Han­son wor­ried that stress from the lack of run­ning wa­ter and elec­tric­ity might push peo­ple over the edge.

“The cash is go­ing to be run­ning out. We’ve al­ready got street ven­dors hawk­ing wa­ter, Cokes and cig­a­rettes. Cig­a­rettes are at seven bucks a pack,” Han­son said. “It’s nuts here, and it’s go­ing to get worse.”

The storm killed about 500 peo­ple in Haiti, ac­cord­ing to some re­ports, and at least 23 in the U.S. — nearly half of them in North Carolina. At least three peo­ple were miss­ing.

The full ex­tent of the dis­as­ter in North Carolina was still un­clear, but it ap­peared that thou­sands of homes were dam­aged and more were in dan­ger of flood­ing.

About 1,500 peo­ple had to be res­cued early Mon­day. Most of them were in knee-deep wa­ter, but some fled to rooftops as the brown wa­ter swirled around them.

Res­cuers still have not made it to all the sub­merged cars or fig­ured out ex­actly how many peo­ple are miss­ing or dead, Robe­son County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Stephanie Chavis said.

Damien Mosher and his fi­ancee were try­ing to make it to their coastal home in South Carolina but were de­toured to Lum­ber­ton be­cause In­ter­state 95 — a ma­jor artery for the East Coast — was closed.

Shel­ters turned them away be­cause of their two dogs so they ended up in the Po­lice Depart­ment park­ing lot, lis­ten­ing to oc­ca­sional gun­fire around them. The depart­ment’s doors were locked and most of the 75 or so of­fi­cers were out help­ing with traf­fic or res­cues.

The Lum­ber River crested 4 feet above its record level Sun­day in Lum­ber­ton and was fore­cast to re­main there un­til Satur­day.

River flood­ing was hap­pen­ing in other places too. In the tiny town of Ni­chols, S.C., down­stream from Lum­ber­ton, at least 100 peo­ple spent the night on the third floor of the town hall.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory pleaded with res­i­dents to heed evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

In ad­di­tion to 11 deaths in North Carolina, there were five in Florida and three each in Ge­or­gia and South Carolina. One death was re­ported in Virginia.

Matthew’s flood­ing in North Carolina was made worse by heavy rains in Septem­ber.

Many ar­eas east of I-95 got at least twice their nor­mal amount of rain last month, in part be­cause the rem­nants of Trop­i­cal Storm Ju­lia parked off the coast for sev­eral days.

CHUCK LIDDY/CHARLOTTE (N.C.) OBSERVER

Traf­fic is at a stand­still on In­ter­state 95 in Lum­ber­ton, N.C., on Sun­day due to high wa­ter.

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