Florence floods Caroli­nas; death toll rises

The nearly stand-still storm's epic del­uge dumps rain, storm surge in­land, flood­ing ar­eas near lakes, rivers

Tulsa World - - Front Page - AssociAted Press North Carolina, the Chief Med­i­cal

NEW BERN, N.C. — Emer­gency work­ers went door to door urg­ing peo­ple to flee Florence's ris­ing wa­ters and used in­flat­able boats to res­cue oth­ers as the storm prac­ti­cally parked it­self over land and poured on the rain Satur­day, rais­ing fears that North Carolina could be in for the most dis­as­trous flood­ing in its his­tory.

Au­thor­i­ties say three more peo­ple have died in North Carolina as a re­sult of Florence, bring­ing the over­all death toll to 11.

In Raleigh, the Of­fice of Ex­am­iner has con­firmed the storm-re­lated deaths of an 81-year-old man who fell and struck his head while pack­ing to evac­u­ate in Wayne County on Fri­day. That agency also is re­port­ing the deaths of a hus­band and wife in a Cum­ber­land County house fire that is linked to the storm that same day.

A day af­ter Florence blew ashore in North Carolina with

90 mph winds, 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 in­land flood­ing caused by rain­wa­ter work­ing its way into rivers and streams.

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.

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

In New Bern, along the coast, aerial photos show homes sur­rounded by wa­ter, with res­cuers us­ing in­flat­able boats to reach peo­ple. More than 360 peo­ple have been car­ried to safety since Thurs­day night amid ris­ing wa­ter from a river swelled by both rain and salty storm surge.

A dog licked Jo­han Mackie's face af­ter he helped res­cue Kevin Knox's fam­ily from their flooded brick home. The Army sergeant was part of a team us­ing a phone app to lo­cate peo­ple in dis­tress.

Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neigh­bor­hood, nav­i­gat­ing through trees and past a fence post 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.”

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

With the eye of Florence stalled near the coast, the half of the storm still 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.

Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Ken Gra­ham said radar and rain gauges in­di­cated some ar­eas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called “ab­so­lutely stag­ger­ing.”

“And we're not done yet,” Gra­ham said, adding that some hard-hit ar­eas could get an ad­di­tional 15 to 20 inches be­cause the storm was mov­ing so slowly.

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 such as New Bern also could see an ad­di­tional Asheville Con­cord

Greenville Columbia Raleigh Fayet­teville 3 to 5 feet of storm surge as high tide com­bines with the sea­wa­ter still be­ing pushed ashore by Florence, Gra­ham said.

The hur­ri­cane cen­ter said the storm will even­tu­ally break up over the Nor­folk Greenville

Jack­sonville Wilmington south­ern Ap­palachi­ans and make a sharp right­ward swing to the north­east, its rainy rem­nants mov­ing into the mid-At­lantic states and New Eng­land by the mid­dle of next week.

STEVE HELBER/AP

Res­cuers use a boat to go house to house in New Bern, North Carolina, check­ing for flood vic­tims on Satur­day.

AN­DREW CARTER/The News & Ob­server via AP

Robert Sim­mons Jr. and his kit­ten, Sur­vivor, ride in a boat as they are res­cued from flood­wa­ters in New Bern, North Carolina, on Fri­day.

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