With death toll at 12, flood­wa­ters keep ris­ing

Over a mil­lion lack power; up to 30 inches of rain falls

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page -

CON­WAY, S.C. — With a plod­ding pace, Trop­i­cal Storm Florence pushed deeper into the Caroli­nas on Satur­day, in­un­dat­ing homes, top­pling trees and push­ing rivers far be­yond their banks as res­cuers rushed to keep pace.

At least 12 deaths were blamed on the storm.

More than 1 mil­lion peo­ple, mainly in North Carolina, were with­out power a day af­ter Florence reached land a few miles east of Wilm­ing­ton as a Cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane. On Satur­day, the storm was crawl­ing west­ward at about 2 mph, un­leash­ing havoc as it went.

Even as the winds abated, the wa­ters rose. And rose.

With rivers swelling to­ward record lev­els, thou­sands of peo­ple were or­dered to evac­u­ate out of fear that the next few days could bring the most de­struc­tive round of flood­ing in North Carolina his­tory.

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and fore­cast­ers said there could be an ad­di­tion-

al 18 inches by the end of the week­end.

“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.

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

As of 11 p.m. Satur­day, Florence was cen­tered about 40 miles east-southeast of Columbia, the South Carolina cap­i­tal, and crawl­ing west at 3 mph — about walk­ing speed. Its winds were down to 40 mph. But with half of the storm still out over the At­lantic, Florence con­tin­ued to col­lect warm ocean water and dump it on­shore.

Two-part dis­as­ter

In its ini­tial on­slaught along the coast, Florence buck­led build­ings, del­uged en­tire com­mu­ni­ties and knocked out power to homes and busi­nesses. But the storm was shap­ing up as a twopart dis­as­ter, with the sec­ond, de­layed stage trig­gered by rain­wa­ter work­ing its way into rivers and streams.

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, N.C., pop­u­la­tion 200,000. Record flood­ing is ex­pected Tues­day on the Cape Fear at a crest of 62 feet there.

“We’re try­ing to make it to­tally clear that this is deadly,” Fayet­teville Mayor Mitch Colvin said. “We can’t force folks to leave, but we are let­ting them know if they don’t get out, they are not go­ing to get help for some time.”

In the Fayet­teville area, John Rose owns a fur­ni­ture busi­ness with stores less than a mile from the Cape Fear River. He moved quickly as work­ers helped him empty more than 1,000 mat­tresses from a ware­house in a low-ly­ing strip mall. “If the river rises to the level they say it’s go­ing to, then this ware­house is go­ing to be un­der water,” he said.

Satur­day evening, Duke En­ergy re­ported that heavy rains had caused a slope to col­lapse at a coal ash land­fill at a closed power sta­tion out­side Wilm­ing­ton. Duke spokes­woman Paige Sheehan said about 2,000 cu­bic yards of ash were dis­placed at the Sut­ton Plant and that con­tam­i­nated water prob­a­bly flowed into the plant’s cool­ing pond.

The com­pany hadn’t yet de­ter­mined whether any con­tam­i­na­tion had flowed into the Cape Fear River. Sut­ton was re­tired in 2013, and the com­pany has been ex­ca­vat­ing ash to re­move to safer lined land­fills. The gray ash left be­hind when coal is burned con­tains toxic heavy met­als, in­clud­ing lead and ar­senic.

Else­where, of­fi­cials in Har­nett County, N.C., 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.

Carp in the back­yard

In New Bern, N.C., 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 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 sus­tained dam­age that 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 their front and back yards near the Lum­ber River. Hur­ri­cane Matthew had sent more than 5 feet of water into their home in 2016, and the cou­ple feared that Florence would run them out again.

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

‘Deep­est sym­pa­thies’

The 12 storm-re­lated deaths in­cluded a mother and child who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C.; Am­ber Dawn Lee, 61, a mother of two who was driv­ing in Union County, S.C., when her ve­hi­cle hit a tree in the road; three peo­ple in Du­plin County, N.C., who died be­cause of flash flood­ing on the road­ways; and a cou­ple who died in a house fire in Cum­ber­land County, N.C.

In Wash­ing­ton, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was briefed Satur­day on Florence’s im­pact. Later, he tweeted his con­do­lences, writ­ing, “Deep­est sym­pa­thies and warmth go out to the fam­i­lies and friends of the vic­tims. May God be with them!”

Gar­land King and his wife, Kather­ine, evac­u­ated their home in New Bern on Fri­day and re­turned Satur­day, shar­ing a kiss and join­ing hands as they drew near their house.

They 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.”

Fore­cast­ers said the storm would even­tu­ally break up over the 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 the week.

Steve Helber/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Boats lie scat­tered, tipped over and half-sunk at New Bern, N.C. With its winds down to 40 mph, Florence was no longer a hur­ri­cane, but the storm con­tin­ued to col­lect warm ocean water and dump it in­land as it crawled west­ward.

Chris Seward/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Res­cue team mem­bers Brad John­son (left) and Steve Wil­liams took a breather Satur­day af­ter search­ing for peo­ple stranded by high water in New Bern.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Kim Adams waded to her home Satur­day in South­port, N.C. As of 11 p.m. Satur­day, Florence was cen­tered about 40 miles east-southeast of Columbia, the South Carolina cap­i­tal, still dump­ing rain and crawl­ing west at just 3 mph — about walk­ing speed.

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