Res­cues, worry af­ter storm in­un­dates North Carolina

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Martha Wag­goner and Allen Breed Wag­goner re­ported from Raleigh, North Carolina; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh; Jef­frey Collins and Jack Jones in Columbia, South Carolina; Russ Bynum in Sa­van­nah and Ter­rance Har­ris in Day­tona Beach, Florida also con­trib­uted

FAYET­TEVILLE, N.C. » When Hur­ri­cane Matthew dumped tor­ren­tial rains on North Carolina, thou­sands of peo­ple found them­selves sud­denly trapped in homes and cars. Res­cuers in Coast Guard he­li­copters plucked some of them from rooftops and used mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles to reach oth­ers, in­clud­ing a woman who held on to a tree for three hours af­ter her car was over­run by flood wa­ters.

In another dra­matic res­cue, a woman with her small child perched on the roof of her car had to be helped to safety as the wa­ters rose around them, un­der­scor­ing how quickly Matthew wreaked havoc 100 miles or more in­land af­ter spar­ing much of the South­east­ern coast the cat­a­strophic dam­age once feared.

The storm killed more than 500 peo­ple in Haiti and at least 18 in the U.S. — nearly half of them in North Carolina. Most were swept away by flood wa­ters.

Gov. Pat McCrory said au­thor­i­ties were search­ing for five peo­ple and feared they may find more vic­tims. The prob­lems were far from over as all that rain — more than a foot in places — flows into rivers and down­stream, likely caus­ing days of ma­jor flood­ing in many of the same places devastated by a sim­i­lar del­uge from Hur­ri­cane Floyd in 1999.

“Hur­ri­cane Matthew is off the map. But it is still with us. And it is still deadly,” McCrory said.

Princeville, a town of 2,000 that dis­ap­peared in the wa­ters of the Tar River dur­ing Floyd, was evac­u­ated Sun­day as the river was ex­pected to rise to 17 feet above flood stage by late Mon­day — a level not seen since Floyd. McCrory ex­pected more evac­u­a­tions as some rivers were pre­dicted to crest next Fri­day.

David Bul­lock’s sis­ter called him as he bought lot­tery tick­ets to tell him po­lice were knock­ing on doors say­ing they had to go. He re­built his home af­ter the 1999 flood.

“If I get flooded again, I can’t take it. I can’t go back and take the ex­pense. If I get flooded again I’m go­ing to say, ‘it’s yours, I’m gone,’” Bul­lock said.

More than a mil­lion peo­ple in South Carolina and North Carolina were with­out power, and at least four sep­a­rate sec­tions of In­ter­state 95 — the main artery link­ing the East Coast from Florida to Maine — were closed in North Carolina.

The fe­roc­ity of the rain caught peo­ple by sur­prise. Ezekiel Crowe, 10, es­caped the floods in Fayet­teville on Satur­day with his par­ents and seven broth­ers and sis­ters when a po­lice boat plucked them from an apart­ment as the wa­ters rose. “I was scared. I was scared. And I thought, I thought the world was go­ing to end. But it didn’t,” he said.

In Wil­son County, res­cuers were called when a 63-year-old woman didn’t make it home from work. They heard her cries for help while rid­ing on top of a Humvee, and when they couldn’t get her with a rope, a Na­tional Guard sol­dier swam to her, stay­ing un­til a res­cue boat ar­rived, Emer­gency Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Gor­don Deno, said.

Even an­i­mals had to be saved. WRAL-TV showed a dog swim­ming around flood­wa­ters Satur­day. McCrory said he and his wife were riv­eted by the cov­er­age and re­lieved to find out from the Coast Guard that the dog man­aged to get into a tree and res­cue it.

The rain­fall to­tals were stag­ger­ing: Nearly 15 inches in Fayet­teville and 8 inches in Raleigh. McCrory warned that cities along rivers in east­ern North Carolina needed to be pre­pared for days of flood­ing. The Lum­ber River in Lum­ber­ton was 4 feet above its record level Sun­day af­ter­noon and was fore­cast to re­main there for at least five days.

Shortly be­fore day­break, the hur­ri­cane was down­graded to a post-trop­i­cal cy­clone. As of 2 p.m. EDT, the storm was cen­tered about 150 miles east of Cape Hat­teras, North Carolina, mov­ing out to sea. It still had hur­ri­cane-force winds of 75 mph. Else­where along the At­lantic coast, things were slowly re­turn­ing to nor­mal. Much of Sa­van­nah, which had 17 inches of rain, was still with­out elec­tric­ity. About 150 peo­ple stood in line for a gro­cery store to open like it was a Black Fri­day sale.

Deb­bie Berta said she waited more than an hour to get propane gas for her grill. She also wanted “bread, pota­toes, eggs — and a piece of san­ity.”

Matthew killed more than 500 peo­ple in Haiti last week, plow­ing into the des­per­ately poor coun­try at 145 mph. The fear­some storm then sideswiped hun­dreds of miles of the U.S. coast­line from Florida through Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas, its eye stay­ing far enough off­shore that the dam­age in many places along the coast was rel­a­tively mod­est, con­sist­ing mostly of flooded streets, flat­tened trees and blown-down signs and awnings. A shift of just 20 or 30 miles could have meant wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion nearer the ocean.

An es­ti­mated 2 mil­lion peo­ple in the South­east were or­dered to evac­u­ate their homes as Matthew closed in.

In ad­di­tion to the eight deaths in North Carolina, there were four in Florida and three each in Ge­or­gia and South Carolina. Some were killed by fall­ing trees, oth­ers by car­bon monox­ide fumes from a gen­er­a­tor. One 66-year-old man near Columbia, South Carolina, died at a nurs­ing fa­cil­ity when he got pinned un­der his elec­tric wheel­chair in wa­ter af­ter the heavy rains.

“Peo­ple were hit. They weren’t hit as di­rectly as we had feared, but it has left a lot of dev­as­ta­tion in in its wake. Lives have been lost, prop­erty has been se­verely dam­aged and there’s still con­tin­u­ing risk of flood­ing go­ing on,” Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said at a fundraiser in Chicago.

Prop­erty data firm CoreLogic pro­jected that in­sured losses on home and com­mer­cial prop­er­ties would amount to $4 bil­lion to $6 bil­lion, well be­low Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina’s $40 bil­lion and Su­per­storm Sandy’s $20 bil­lion.


Freda Pittman holds Mark Bergstresser’s hand and says, “God bless you,” as he fer­ries her from her flooded neigh­bor­hood to wait­ing friends on High­way 211 in Lum­ber­ton, N.C., on Sun­day, Oct. 9, 2016.

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