11 dead, nearly 1 mil­lion in the dark in Caroli­nas

Water res­cues take pri­or­ity as flood­ing in­ten­si­fies along coasts, near rivers

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin and Daniel J. Gross

WILMINGTON, N.C. – A weak­ened Florence slowed to a crawl over South Carolina on Satur­day af­ter leav­ing at least 11 peo­ple dead, and the storm’s re­lent­less rains fueled fears of dev­as­tat­ing in­land flood­ing in the days ahead.

More than 2 feet of rain has fallen in some places, and flood­ing has led to scores of water res­cues. With rivers ris­ing to record lev­els, of­fi­cials warned an­other deadly chap­ter of the dis­as­ter could soon un­fold.

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

Since march­ing ashore Fri­day near Wilmington as a hur­ri­cane, Florence has knocked out power to nearly 900,000 homes in the Caroli­nas, ac­cord­ing to power­outage.us.

Now, as a trop­i­cal storm, Florence is ex­pected to dump an ad­di­tional 10 to 15 inches of rain in parts of North and South Carolina; storm to­tals could reach 30 to 40 inches along the North Carolina coastal area south of Cape Hat­teras.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Florence was cen­tered about 60 miles west of Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, inch­ing west at 2 mph with winds down to 45 mph. With half of the storm still out over the At­lantic, Florence con­tin­ued to col­lect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter warned Florence will con­tinue to pro­duce “cat­a­strophic flash flood­ing and pro­longed sig­nif­i­cant river flood­ing.”

North Carolina’s Har­nett County de­clared a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion Satur­day along the Lower Lit­tle River, which is ex­pected to rise to more than 17 feet above flood stage. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­casts the river to reach flood stage at Manch­ester af­ter 2 a.m. EDT Sun­day and crest Mon­day morn­ing at 35.4 feet. Flood stage is 18 feet.

Cooper said Florence could wipe out en­tire com­mu­ni­ties as it grinds its way across land.

“The fact is this storm is deadly, and we know we are days away from an end­ing,” he said.

In Wash­ing­ton, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued a dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion for North Carolina on Satur­day that will make fed­eral money avail­able to peo­ple in eight coun­ties, the White House said.

Gov­ern­ment aid can in­clude grants for tem­po­rary hous­ing and home re­pairs, low-cost loans to cover unin­sured prop­erty losses, and other pro­grams to help in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness own­ers re­cover from the hur­ri­cane’s ef­fect.

About 9,700 Na­tional Guard troops and civil­ians have been de­ployed with high-water ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters and boats. Through­out the Caroli­nas, a ma­jor fo­cus was pluck­ing peo­ple from ris­ing wa­ters.

In eastern North Carolina alone, eight Na­tional Guard he­li­copters were in ac­tion Satur­day to help with res­cues.

Petty Of­fi­cer Char­lotte Fritts said he­li­copters were sent from Coast Guard Air Sta­tion Elizabeth City to an area near Jack­sonville, North Carolina, to res­cue 13 peo­ple stranded in two cars.

In New Bern, where the Neuse and Trent rivers in­ter­sect, about 200 peo­ple were res­cued af­ter be­ing stranded in their homes, ac­cord­ing to Mayor Dana Out­law. An­other 150, in­clud­ing some trapped in sec­ond floors of houses or in at­tics, awaited res­cue.

“What hap­pens is that we res­cue some peo­ple, and then we find out there are still more who need it,” Out­law said. “Peo­ple who live in New Bern have ex­pe­ri­enced hur­ri­canes be­fore, but it has been a long time since we have ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing like this.”

He said at least 4,200 homes and 300 busi­nesses sus­tained dam­age from flood­ing.

“Things here are very, very se­ri­ous,” the mayor said. “If you’ve ever doubted the de­struc­tive­ness of a hur­ri­cane, what’s hap­pen­ing here will make you a be­liever.”

More than 60 peo­ple, in­clud­ing an in­fant, chil­dren and pets, were res­cued from a col­laps­ing ho­tel in Jack­sonville at the height of the storm, ac­cord­ing to WITN-TV.

In New­port, North Carolina, res­cuers were able to reach a flooded an­i­mal shel­ter af­ter the Carteret County Hu­mane So­ci­ety put out a call for help on Face­book. The Ca­jun Navy, a group of vol­un­teers in boats, brought two stranded shel­ter work­ers, 43 dogs, 80 cats and roughly 15 chick­ens to safety.

Daniel J. Gross re­ports for the Greenville News. Con­tribut­ing: Sean Ross­man, USA TO­DAY; As­so­ci­ated Press

“What hap­pens is that we res­cue some peo­ple, and then we find out there are still more who need it.”

Dana Out­law Mayor of New Bern

AN­DREW NELLES/USA TO­DAY NETWORK

A car passes un­der a fallen tree Satur­day in Lum­ber­ton, N.C.

Flood­wa­ters in­un­date the In­ner Banks town of Bel­haven, N.C. JOHN MEORE AND TARIQ ZEHARI/USA TO­DAY NETWORK

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