Mil­lions in way of Florence as it crawls over the Caroli­nas

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

Mil­lions of peo­ple re­mained in the path of Florence as the pow­er­ful storm crawled in­land Satur­day, dump­ing heavy rain and threat­en­ing cat­a­strophic in­un­da­tions around the Caroli­nas. Here are snap­shots of peo­ple strug­gling to cope with the rem­nants of the hur­ri­cane:

A CLOSE EYE ON THE CREEK

Trop­i­cal Storm Florence has Michael John­son keep­ing a close eye on the creek that flooded his apart­ment in Columbia, South Carolina, al­most three years ago.

Rain fell steadily across Columbia on Satur­day as the slow-mov­ing storm crawled west­ward to­ward South Carolina’s cap­i­tal city. Fore­cast­ers warned Florence’s big­gest in­land threat was the flood­ing brought on by all the rain.

John­son said knee-deep wa­ter from Gills Creek be­hind his ground-floor apart­ment swamped the build­ing and sev­eral oth­ers in his com­plex in Oc­to­ber 2015 when a dis­tant hur­ri­cane trig­gered dev­as­tat­ing floods in the Caroli­nas even as it by­passed the East Coast. Many res­i­dents had to be res­cued by boat then.

John­son kept look­ing out the slid­ing glass door of his apart­ment Satur­day. His wife had worked an overnight shift at a lo­cal Waf­fle House, and now they watched with bags packed, ready to evac­u­ate with their dog at the first sign of any flood­ing.

Said John­son: “As soon as I see some wa­ter rise down there, I’m gone.”

FLEE­ING THE CAPE FEAR RIVER

San­dra Rivera was at her job at Sears on Satur­day af­ter­noon in Fayet­teville, North Carolina, when her hus­band called and said he was pick­ing her up right away.

A pa­trol car had cir­cled their Fayet­teville sub­di­vi­sion an­nounc­ing over the loud­speaker that they were un­der an im­me­di­ate manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der as the Cape Fear River con­tin­ued to swell from Florence’s pelt­ing rains.

She was shocked. They had made it through Hur­ri­cane Matthew in 2016 with­out prob­lems. She didn’t even know she lived that close to the river, which runs about a half mile (less than a kilome­ter) away.

She rushed home and started pack­ing the car with clothes, es­sen­tials and her three dogs. They hauled their valuables to the sec­ond floor and were prepar­ing to take off to stay with friends for sev­eral days. She doesn’t know what she’ll come back home to. But, she said, her hus­band and two chil­dren will be out of dan­ger and that’s what mat­ters.

“What­ever is go­ing to hap­pen will hap­pen,” she said. “It’s na­ture, I can’t con­trol it.”

TRAPPED IN THE AT­TIC

Seventy-one-year-old Pa­tri­cia Dixon and her hus­band Graham Dixon, 73, re­turned Satur­day to their home near New Bern af­ter be­ing trapped in the at­tic for about 17 hours as Florence flooded their home and their neigh­bor­hood ear­lier this week.

The winds pushed river wa­ter into a lake which usu­ally laps against their back yard, some­thing that had never hap­pened be­fore. The flood­wa­ters swept into their ranch house un­til it was three feet (1 me­ter) deep on the first floor, built above ground level. The cou­ple grabbed dry clothes, food, wa­ter and their dog and climbed into their at­tic as the winds howled, wor­ried they could be trapped there, Pa­tri­cia Dixon said.

“I’ll tell you,” she said, “when we were up in that at­tic and that wind started com­ing, I never prayed so hard in all my life. I swear I was do­ing non-stop pray­ing, be­cause that wind was boom­ing, crash­ing. And I thought, Oh God, if this roof goes, we’re gone.”

The cou­ple had put a new roof on the house a month ago.

The wa­ter rose about six inches (15 cen­time­ters) an hour un­til it stopped. Then it be­gan re­ced­ing and the fire de­part­ment came in a truck to take the Dixons out Fri­day af­ter­noon, Graham Dixon said.

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