Hur­ri­cane Florence slams Caroli­nas, at least four killed

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Jef­frey COLLINS, Jonathan DREW

MYR­TLE BEACH, S.C. — Florence al­ready has proven deadly with its nearly non­stop rain, surg­ing sea­wa­ter and howl­ing winds, and the threat is days from end­ing as rem­nants of the once ma­jor hur­ri­cane slowly creep in­land across the Caroli­nas.

Some towns have re­ceived more than 60 cen­time­tres of rain from Florence, and fore­cast­ers warned that drench­ing rains with as much as a me­tre of wa­ter could trig­ger epic flood­ing well in­land through early next week. At least four peo­ple have died, and author­i­ties fear the toll will go higher as the trop­i­cal storm crawls west­ward Satur­day across South Carolina.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an “un­in­vited brute” that 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,” Cooper said.

As 645-kilo­me­tre-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with tor­ren­tial down­pours and surg­ing seas, res­cue crews used boats to reach more than 360 peo­ple be­sieged by ris­ing wa­ters in New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neigh­bours awaited help. Dozens more were res­cued from a col­lapsed mo­tel.

Florence flat­tened trees, buck­led build­ings and crum­pled roads.

The storm knocked out power to more than 910,000 homes and busi­nesses, and the num­ber could keep ris­ing.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, ac­cord­ing to a tweet from Wilm­ing­ton po­lice.

Also, a 77-year-old man was ap­par­ently knocked down by the wind and died af­ter go­ing out to check on his hunt­ing dogs, Lenoir County author­i­ties said, and the gov­er­nor’s of­fice said a man was elec­tro­cuted while try­ing to con­nect ex­ten­sion cords in the rain.

Storm surges – the bulge of ocean wa­ter pushed ashore by the hur­ri­cane – were as high as three me­tres.

Shaken af­ter see­ing waves crash­ing on the Neuse River just out­side his house in New Bern, res­tau­rant owner and hur­ri­cane vet­eran Tom Bal­lance wished he had evac­u­ated.

“I feel like the dumb­est hu­man be­ing who ever walked the face of the Earth,” he said.

Af­ter reach­ing a ter­ri­fy­ing Cat­e­gory 4 peak of 225 km/h ear­lier in the week, Florence made land­fall as a Cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilo­me­tres) east of Wilm­ing­ton and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emp­tied-out stretch of coast­line.

Florence was down­graded to a trop­i­cal storm later, its winds weak­ened to 112 km/h as it moved for­ward at 6 km/h about 25 km north of Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina.

But it was clear that this was re­ally about the wa­ter, not the wind. More­head City, North Carolina, had re­ceived 58 cm of rain by Fri­day night with more tor­rents on the way.

Florence’s for­ward move­ment dur­ing the day slowed to a near­stand­still – some­times it was go­ing no faster than a hu­man can walk – and that en­abled it to pile on the rain.

The flood­ing soon spread into South Carolina, swamp­ing places like North Myr­tle Beach, in a re­sort area known for its white sands and mul­ti­tude of golf cour­ses.

For peo­ple liv­ing in­land in the Caroli­nas, the mo­ment of max­i­mum peril from flash flood­ing could ar­rive days later, be­cause it takes time for rain­wa­ter to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Pre­par­ing for the worst, about 9,700 Na­tional Guard troops and civil­ians were de­ployed with high­wa­ter ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters and boats.

Author­i­ties warned, too, of the threat of mud­slides and the risk of an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter from flood­wa­ters wash­ing over in­dus­trial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence could be­come a ma­jor test for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, which was heav­ily crit­i­cized as slow and un­pre­pared last year for Hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at nearly 3,000.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Florence will even­tu­ally break up over the southern Ap­palachi­ans and make a right hook to the north­east, its rainy rem­nants mov­ing into the mid-At­lantic states and New Eng­land by the mid­dle of next week.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ryan Maue of weath­er­mod­ said Florence could dump a stag­ger­ing 68 tril­lion litres of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Vir­ginia, Ge­or­gia, Ten­nessee, Ken­tucky and Mary­land. That’s enough to fill the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay or cover the en­tire state of Texas with nearly 10 cm of wa­ter, he cal­cu­lated.

North Carolina alone is fore­cast to get 36 tril­lion litres, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 25 cm.

In Jack­sonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Le­je­une, fire­fight­ers and po­lice fought wind and rain as they went door to door to pull more than 60 peo­ple out of the Tri­an­gle Mo­tor Inn af­ter the struc­ture be­gan to crum­ble and the roof started to col­lapsel.

In New Bern, pop­u­la­tion 29,000, flood­ing on the Neuse River left 500 peo­ple in peril.

“WE ARE COM­ING TO GET YOU,” the city tweeted around 2 a.m. Fri­day. “You may need to move up to the sec­ond story, or to your at­tic, but WE ARE COM­ING TO GET YOU.”


High winds and wa­ter sur­round build­ings as Hur­ri­cane Florence hits Front Street in down­town Swans­boro, N.C., on Fri­day.

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