Storm

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

As of 5 p.m., Florence was cen­tered about 60 miles west of Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, inch­ing west at 2 mph — not even as fast as a per­son walk­ing. Its winds were 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.

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.

Author­i­ties or­dered the im­me­di­ate evac­u­a­tion of up to 7,500 peo­ple liv­ing within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Lit­tle River, about 100 miles 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 16-mile stretch of In­ter­state 95, the main high­way along the East­ern Se­aboard.

In New Bern, along the coast, homes were com­pletely 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 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 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.”

New Bern spokes­woman Colleen Roberts said 455 peo­ple in all were res­cued in the town of 30,000 res­i­dents with­out any se­ri­ous in­juries or deaths. But thou­sands of build­ings were dam­aged in de­struc­tion Roberts called “heart-wrench­ing.”

Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan An­drews re­turned home af­ter evac­u­at­ing to find carp flop­ping in their back­yard near the porch stairs.

Coast Guard he­li­copters were tak­ing off across the street to res­cue stranded peo­ple from rooftops and swamped cars. Coast Guard mem­bers said chop­pers had made about 50 res­cues in and around New Bern and Jack­sonville as of noon.

Marines res­cued about 20 civil­ians from flood­wa­ters near Camp Le­je­une, us­ing Humvees and am­phibi­ous as­sault ve­hi­cles, the base re­ported.

In Lum­ber­ton, about 80 miles in­land, Jackie and Quin­ton Wash­ing­ton watched wa­ter fill­ing both their front and back yards near the Lum­ber River. Hur­ri­cane Matthew sent more than 5 feet of wa­ter into their home in 2016, and the cou­ple feared Florence would run them out again.

“If it goes up to my front step, I have to get out,” Quintin Wash­ing­ton said.

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.

Re­tired Ma­rine Gar­land King and his wife, Kather­ine, evac­u­ated their home in New Bern on Fri­day and re­turned Sat­ur­day.

“It was tough. Wob­bling. I was look­ing for wa­ter moc­casins to hit me at any time,” he said.

They fi­nally made it, and found a soggy, stink­ing mess.

“The car­pets. The floors. Ev­ery­thing is soak­ing wet,” Kather­ine King said. “We’re go­ing to have to redo the whole in­side.”

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Florence broke a North Carolina rain­fall record that had stood for al­most 20 years: Pre­lim­i­nary re­ports showed Swans­boro got more than 30 inches (75 cen­time­ters) and count­ing, oblit­er­at­ing the mark set in 1999, when Hur­ri­cane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.

As of noon, Emer­ald Isle had more than 23 inches of rain, and Wilm­ing­ton and Golds­boro had about a foot. North Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, had around 7 inches.

MARK WIL­SON / GETTY IM­AGES

Peo­ple wait in line Sat­ur­day in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., to fill their gas cans at a ser­vice sta­tion that was dam­aged when Hur­ri­cane Florence hit the area. En­tire com­mu­ni­ties were del­uged along the coast.

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