Millions in way of Florence as it crawls over the Carolinas
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.