Florence devastates North Carolina

Ignacio Smith
September 19, 2018

In New Bern, a riverfront city near North Carolina's coast, Bryan Moore and his nephew Logan did exactly what authorities warned against: they left their homes to go swimming in the floodwaters after having spent days at home without electricity or running water.

Former hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence has claimed a 14th victim: a man who drowned when a pickup truck flipped into a drainage ditch in SC.

Already, more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain has fallen in places, and forecasters are saying there could be an additional 1½ feet (45 centimeters) before Sunday is out.

"Our roads are flooded", he said. A woman and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington; a woman died in Pender County after suffering a medical condition and large trees blocked roads to her home; two people died in Lenoir County; and three were killed in Duplin County in separate incidents when the cars they were in were washed away in high water, authorities said.

Florence is now the third storm to set a tropical cyclone state rainfall record in just the last 12 months.

"People need to heed the warnings from their local emergency management experts and stay in safe ground", the Coast Guard's Adm. Schultz said.

Most of the deaths occurred in North Carolina, officials said. The governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain. She says fire and police officials were going door to door in the affected neighborhoods Sunday morning to make sure people are aware.

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In Wilmington, with roads leading in and out of the city underwater and streams still swelling upward, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants for basic necessities like water.

The mayor of New Bern, North Carolina, says his city has imposed a curfew.

Mayor Dana Outlaw told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that numerous creeks in the area are "increasing by the hour" and there's concern about trees falling due to the saturated ground conditions.

The head of the US government's disaster relief agency says Florence is unfortunately delivering the damage that was predicted as it sweeps across the Carolinas. "We know that's going to be a major mission going forward, because this is historic and unprecedented flooding".

Long says the agency's immediate focus is on search-and-rescue efforts and meeting the needs of people who are in shelters. "We gave him an update on response capabilities in the theater, and the president is completely leaning in - anything the feds need to do to support the local, the state partners here in SC and North Carolina".

Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard said 63-year-old Mark Carter King and 61-year-old Debra Collins Rion were killed by breathing in carbon monoxide.

Adding to the rain and threat of further flooding, a tornado watch is in effect until at least 5:30 p.m. Sunday for the areas of Wilmington, Fayetteville, Myrtle Beach, Jacksonville, Oak Island and Florence.

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Florence, a onetime hurricane that weakened to a tropical depression by Sunday, dumped up to 40 inches (100 cm) of rain on parts of North Carolina since Thursday, and continued to produce widespread heavy rain over much of North Carolina and eastern SC, the National Weather Service said. "The rivers could potentially crest here into the early part of this week". Even by week's end the city could be experiencing minor flooding from the river. Its center was expected to move across the western Carolinas during Sunday and over the Ohio Valley and Northeast United States on Monday and Tuesday.

The storm had picked up some pace and was moving at 10 miles per hour (16 kph), up from 6 miles per hour.

North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of the still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding from Florence.

For more information on Hurricane Florence, head to the FOX 46 Resource Center. Storm surges, flash floods and winds have spread destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard and volunteers have used boats, helicopters, and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct hundreds of rescues as of Saturday.

The death toll rose to at least 17.

The National Weather Service continues to warn of life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding.

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