Florence pours on the rain in the Caroli­nas

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Allen G. Breed

NEW BERN, N.C. » Thou­sands of peo­ple liv­ing near North Carolina’s ris­ing rivers were or­dered evac­u­ated Satur­day as hur­ri­cane-turned-trop­i­cal storm Florence prac­ti­cally parked it­self over land and poured on the rain Satur­day, rais­ing fears that the state could be in for the most dis­as­trous flood­ing in its his­tory.

The death toll climbed to at least five.

A day af­ter Florence blew ashore in North Carolina with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Coast Guard of­fi­cials re­ported us­ing heli­copters to lift scores of peo­ple from rooftops and swamped cars, and res­cue crews used in­flat­able boats to reach oth­ers trapped in their swamped homes.

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drench­ing went on and on, with fore­cast­ers say­ing there could be an ad­di­tional 1½ feet by the end of the week­end.

Rivers and creeks rose to­ward his­toric lev­els, threat­en­ing flash flood­ing that could dev­as­tate com­mu­ni­ties and en­dan­ger dams, roads and bridges.

“I can­not over­state it: Flood­wa­ters are ris­ing, and if you aren’t watch­ing for them you are risk­ing your life,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

In its ini­tial on­slaught along the coast, Florence buck­led build­ings, del­uged en­tire com­mu­ni­ties and knocked out power to more than 870,000 homes and busi­nesses. But the storm was shap­ing up as a two-part dis­as­ter, with the sec­ond, de­layed-ac­tion stage con­sist­ing of epic in­land flood­ing, caused by rain­wa­ter work­ing its way into rivers and streams.

Au­thor­i­ties or­dered an im­me­di­ate evac­u­a­tion of an es­ti­mated A sail­boat is shoved up against a house and a col­lapsed garage Satur­day af­ter heavy wind and rain from Florence, now a trop­i­cal storm, blew through New Bern, N.C. 2,800 homes within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River, plus a sec­tion of the Lit­tle River, be­cause of what they said was “im­mi­nent dan­ger” from flood­wa­ters. The evac­u­a­tion zone in­cluded part of the city of Fayet­teville, with a pop­u­la­tion of 200,000.

Of­fi­cials in North Carolina’s Har­nett County, about 90 miles in­land, urged res­i­dents of about 1,100 homes to clear out be­cause the Lower Lit­tle River was ris­ing to­ward record lev­els.

In New Bern, along the coast, homes were com­pletely sur­rounded by water, and res­cuers used in­flat­able boats to reach peo­ple. More than 360 peo­ple had been car­ried to safety since Thurs­day night amid ris­ing wa­ters from a river swelled by both rain and storm surge.

Kevin Knox and his fam­ily were res­cued from their flooded brick home with A ve­hi­cle with the Wilm­ing­ton Fire Depart­ment drives through a flooded street from Florence, now a trop­i­cal storm in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., Satur­day. Ben­nie Todd shows how high the Lum­ber River rose dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew two years in his back­yard in Lum­ber­ton, N.C., Fri­day. Now the town is brac­ing for an­other po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic flood, as heavy rains from Florence bat­ter the re­gion with rain and the river rises through the week­end.

the help of Army Sgt. Jo­han Mackie, part of a team that was us­ing a phone app to lo­cate peo­ple in dis­tress. Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neigh­bor­hood, nav­i­gat­ing through trees and past a fen­ce­post to get to the Knox house.

“Amaz­ing. They did awe­some,” said Knox, who was stranded with seven oth­ers, in­clud­ing a boy who was car­ried out in a life vest. “If not we’d be stuck up­stairs for the next ... how long? I have no

idea.”

Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan An­drews re­turned home af­ter evac­u­at­ing to find carp flop­ping in their back yard near the porch stairs. Across the street, Coast Guard heli­copters were tak­ing off to res­cue stranded peo­ple.

Coast Guards­men said chop­pers had made about 50 res­cues in and around New Bern and Jack­sonville as of noon.

The dead in­cluded a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm when of­fi­cials said a 61-year-old woman was killed when her ve­hi­cle hit a tree that had fallen across a high­way.

At 11 a.m., Florence was cen­tered about 40 miles (65 kilo­me­ters) west of Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, inch­ing west at 2 mph (4 kph) — not even as fast as a per­son can walk. Its winds were down to 45 mph (75 kph).

With the eye of Florence stalled near the coast, the half of the storm still out over the At­lantic con­tin­ued to col­lect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

Stream gauges across the re­gion showed water lev­els steadily ris­ing, with fore­casts call­ing for rivers to crest Sun­day and Mon­day at or near record lev­els. The Lit­tle River, the Cape Fear, the Lum­ber, the Neuse, the Wac­ca­maw and the Pee Dee were all pro­jected to rise over their banks, flood­ing cities and towns.

Along the Lum­ber River in Lum­ber­ton, work­ers used heavy ma­chin­ery to dump ex­tra sand on a railbed prone to flood­ing.

As of noon, Swans­boro, North Carolina, had nearly 31 inches of rain, Emer­ald Isle had over 23, and Wilm­ing­ton and Golds­boro had about a foot. North Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, had about 7 inches.

Char­lotte and Asheville in North Carolina, and Roanoke, Vir­ginia, could also be in for heavy rains as Florence plods in­land. Ar­eas like New Bern also could see an ad­di­tional 3 to 5 feet of storm surge as high tide com­bines with the sea­wa­ter still be­ing pushed ashore by Florence, National Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Ken Gra­ham said

ALLEN G. BREED — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kevin Knox car­ries gas and a gen­er­a­tor af­ter be­ing res­cued from his flooded neigh­bor­hood from the ef­fects of Florence, now a trop­i­cal storm, in New Bern, N.C., on Satur­day.

STEVE HELBER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DAVID GOLD­MAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MATT BORN — THE STAR-NEWS VIA AP

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