Time to go: North Carolina urges evac­u­a­tions be­fore flood­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Jonathan Drew and Emery P. Dale­sio

GREENVILLE, N.C. >> Po­lice of­fi­cers and fire­fight­ers in eastern North Carolina cruised low-ly­ing ar­eas and shouted a sim­ple mes­sage from bull­horns: Get out be­fore the flood­wa­ters from Hur­ri­cane Matthew ar­rive.

Thou­sands of peo­ple were or­dered to evac­u­ate, and of­fi­cials warned that some com­mu­ni­ties could be cut off by washed out roads or bridge clo­sures. In the city of Greenville, mil­i­tary trucks rum­bled through leafy neigh­bor­hoods where or­ange traf­fic cones and po­lice tape dis­cour­aged peo­ple from en­ter­ing. Po­lice were sta­tioned at the edge of the evac­u­a­tion zone to mon­i­tor who came and went.

Au­thor­i­ties planned to go door-to-door in some ar­eas, telling peo­ple to es­cape to higher ground. The flood­ing trig­gered by heavy rain from Matthew — which killed more than 500 peo­ple in Haiti — has left at least 35 dead in the U.S.

“There are a lot of peo­ple that are hurt­ing, that are liv­ing in shel­ters and are pre­par­ing for ma­jor, ma­jor flood­ing,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Wed­nes­day.

Au­thor­i­ties closed one bridge across the swollen Tar River in Greenville and warned that sev­eral other bridges could close, iso­lat­ing peo­ple. The city’s air­port was ex­pected to re­main closed for an­other week due to flood­ing.

Still, Greenville res­i­dent John Ben­son felt con­fi­dent his house would be OK. His block didn’t take on wa­ter dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Floyd in 1999 and his street is on a steep grade, mak­ing a quick get­away pos­si­ble.

“Po­lice, fire peo­ple, came around, bull-horn­ing and talk­ing to us. They let ev­ery­body know to get out,” he said.

Many peo­ple did obey or­ders to leave their homes.

At a shel­ter in Greenville, Bri­anna Flores was anx­iously wait­ing to find out more about how flood­ing af­fected her fam­ily’s trailer home in Princeville, a com­mu­nity along the Tar River. She said she and her hus­band packed two days’ worth of clothes and first came to a ho­tel in Greenville be­fore mov­ing to a shel­ter Sun­day. They wanted to be close to Vi­dant Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Greenville be­cause her sis­ter-in-law is preg­nant.

Flores said she and her hus­band do not have flood in­sur­ance and lack the sav­ings to buy a new home if their trailer is flooded. She hopes they would be el­i­gi­ble for as­sis­tance from FEMA.

She hasn’t been able to get firm in­for­ma­tion on her neigh­bor­hood. A state in­ter­ac­tive flood­ing map shows that ar­eas next to her neigh­bor­hood have flooded.

“No­body’s been able to get into Princeville,” she said, with her 16-month daugh­ter Ilyaona seated on her lap in a room where the shel­ter stored bot­tles of wa­ter, snacks and dry food.

“I’m very anx­ious. Very stressed. I’ve broke down a few times, just be­cause I’m wor­ried. But I’ve gotta stay strong for her and my hus­band, and my fam­ily,” she said.

If they need a long-term so­lu­tion, they could go to her par­ents in Jack­sonville, North Carolina.

Flood­ing con­di­tions in Fayet­teville were ex­pected to last un­til Fri­day, while the Neuse River in Kin­ston was ex­pected to peak Satur­day.

“We want you to evac­u­ate th­ese low-ly­ing ar­eas ab­so­lutely and im­me­di­ately,” Kin­ston Mayor BJ Mur­phy told WITN-TV on Wed­nes­day. “The time to get out is now.”

In a pos­si­ble sign of storm-driven ten­sions, au­thor­i­ties said a state trooper shot and killed an armed man in Lum­ber­ton who be­came an­gry with of­fi­cers car­ry­ing out search and res­cue mis­sions. They re­leased lit­tle other in­for­ma­tion about the shoot­ing.

In the hard-hit town of Lum­ber­ton, along the bloated Lum­ber River, Ada Page spent two nights sleep­ing in a hard plas­tic fold­ing chair at a shel­ter put to­gether so hastily there were no cots. Peo­ple had to use portable toi­lets out­side.

“I left at home all my clothes, ev­ery­thing. The only thing I have is this child and what I was driv­ing,” said Page, who was with an 8-year-old grand­daugh­ter.

The full ex­tent of the dis­as­ter in North Carolina was still un­clear, but it ap­peared that thou­sands of homes were dam­aged. Many likened Matthew to Hur­ri­cane Floyd, which did $3 bil­lion in dam­age and de­stroyed 7,000 homes in North Carolina as it skirted the state’s coast in 1999.

ZACH FRAI­LEY/DAILY FREE PRESS VIA AP

A North Carolina Na­tional Guard ve­hi­cle drives through high wa­ter along NC 11 at Skin­ner’s By­pass in Kin­ston, NC, on Tues­day, as flood­wa­ters over­take the road.

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