Res­cue crews hard at work as flood­wa­ters rise

Hun­dreds taken to safety in his­toric North Carolina city

The Detroit News - - News - BY TA­MARA LUSH AND ALLEN G. BREED As­so­ci­ated Press

New Bern, N.C. — An omi­nous tweet ap­peared on a his­toric North Carolina com­mu­nity’s Twit­ter feed about 2 a.m. Fri­day.

It came as rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn’t stop. And that’s when peo­ple found them­selves trapped in their homes as the wa­ter rose.

“WE ARE COM­ING TO GET YOU,” the tweet said. “You may need to move up to the sec­ond story, or to your at­tic, but WE ARE COM­ING TO GET YOU.”

More than 360 peo­ple had been res­cued by mid-af­ter­noon Fri­day, but an­other 140 were still wait­ing for help, city spokes­woman Colleen Roberts told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Crews from the city and the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency were work­ing with cit­i­zen vol­un­teers to get peo­ple to dry ground, Roberts said.

There had been no re­ports of in­juries or fa­tal­i­ties, though most of the city was with­out power and thou­sands of build­ings had been dam­aged, she said.

Sixty-seven-year-old Sadie Marie Holt was among those res­cued Fri­day.

Holt, who has di­a­betes and clogged ar­ter­ies, said she stayed for doc­tor’s ap­point­ments that were can­celed at the last minute. She tried to row out of her neigh­bor­hood Thurs­day night with a boat that was in her yard af­ter her home be­gan to flood, but had to re­treat be­cause of the poor con­di­tions.

“The wind was so hard, the wa­ters were so hard that, try­ing to get out, we got thrown into trail­ers. We got thrown into mail­boxes. Houses. Trees,” Holt said.

The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s and was briefly the state cap­i­tal, is near the North Carolina coast and is bor­dered on the east and south, re­spec­tively, by two rivers. When Hur­ri­cane Florence started bat­ter­ing east­ern North Carolina with record rain­fall, the Neuse and Trent rivers be­gan to swell — and com­bined with high tide, made for dan­ger­ous flood­ing.

Res­i­dents reached out for help through the night by phone and on so­cial me­dia.

Dawn Bald­win Gib­son, 47, a min­is­ter and pri­vate school founder who lives on a farm closer to the coast in nearby Pam­lico County and runs a Face­book page about weather in east­ern North Carolina, had evac­u­ated to New Bern to stay with fam­ily, think­ing that it would be a safer spot.

Gib­son said Fri­day that while she and her fam­ily were safe, she and her hus­band had got­ten around 75 calls and texts from oth­ers ask­ing for help.

“And from that point, we started hear­ing where peo­ple were say­ing on phone calls, ‘I love you,’ to their fam­ily mem­bers be­cause they were not sure they were go­ing to get out of it alive,” she said Fri­day.

Gib­son said she thinks some peo­ple couldn’t af­ford to evac­u­ate New Bern and oth­ers didn’t heed evac­u­a­tion warn­ings af­ter Florence dropped from a Cat­e­gory 4 to a Cat­e­gory 1. But once New Bern TV news sta­tion WCTI evac­u­ated its news­room Thurs­day night be­cause of flood­ing and peo­ple be­gan to lose power, the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion be­gan dawn­ing on folks, she said.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said flash flood­ing was ex­pected to con­tinue through the rest of Fri­day in New Bern and sur­round­ing ar­eas. A 24-hour cur­few was in ef­fect.

Roberts, the city spokes­woman, said early es­ti­mates show about 4,300 res­i­dences and 300 com­mer­cial build­ings had been dam­aged. She said that count is ex­pected to in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly.


Flood­wa­ters move near build­ings in down­town New Bern, North Carolina, on Fri­day as Hur­ri­cane Florence comes ashore.

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