FLORENCE: Storm’s death toll climbs, cat­a­strophic flood­ing feared in­land

Times Colonist - - World -

NEW BERN, North Carolina — The Marines, the coast guard, civil­ian crews and vol­un­teers used he­li­copters, boats and heavy-duty ve­hi­cles Satur­day to res­cue hun­dreds of peo­ple trapped by Florence’s shore­line on­slaught, even as North Carolina braced for what could be the next stage of the dis­as­ter: wide­spread, cat­a­strophic flood­ing in­land.

The death toll from the hur­ri­cane-turned-trop­i­cal storm climbed to 11.

A day af­ter blow­ing ashore with 145 kilo­me­tre an hour winds, Florence prac­ti­cally parked it­self over land all day long and poured on the rain. With rivers ris­ing to­ward record lev­els, thou­sands of peo­ple were or­dered to move out for fear the next few days could bring the most de­struc­tive round of flood­ing in North Carolina his­tory. “I can­not over­state it: Flood­wa­ters are ris­ing, and if you aren’t watch­ing for them, you are risk­ing your life,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

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

In its ini­tial on­slaught along the coast, Florence buck­led build­ings, del­uged en­tire com­mu­ni­ties and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and busi­nesses. But the storm was shap­ing up as a two-part dis­as­ter, with the sec­ond, de­layed stage trig­gered by rain­wa­ter work­ing its way into rivers and streams. The flash flood­ing could dev­as­tate com­mu­ni­ties and en­dan­ger dams, roads and bridges.

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, with of­fi­cials say­ing a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a high­way.

Three died in one in­land county, Du­plin, be­cause of wa­ter on roads and flash floods, the sher­iff’s of­fice said. A hus­band and wife died in a house fire linked to the storm, of­fi­cials said, and an 81-year-old man died af­ter fall­ing and hit­ting his head while pack­ing to evac­u­ate.

Au­thor­i­ties or­dered the im­me­di­ate evac­u­a­tion of up to 7,500 peo­ple liv­ing within 1.6 kilo­me­tres of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Lit­tle River, about 160 kilo­me­tres from the coast. The evac­u­a­tion zone in­cluded part of the city of Fayet­teville, pop­u­la­tion 200,000.

Of­fi­cials in nearby Har­nett County urged res­i­dents of about 1,100 homes to clear out be­cause the Lower Lit­tle River was ris­ing to­ward record lev­els.

One po­ten­tial road out was blocked as flood­ing forced the shut­down of a 26-km stretch of In­ter­state 95, the main high­way along the Eastern Se­aboard.

In New Bern, along the coast, homes were sur­rounded by wa­ter, and res­cuers used in­flat­able boats to reach peo­ple.

Kevin Knox and his fam­ily were res­cued from their flooded brick home with the help of U.S. Army Sgt. Jo­han Mackie, part of a team us­ing a phone app to lo­cate peo­ple in dis­tress. Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neigh­bour­hood, 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.”

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