Killer storm far from over, US officials warn as 'epic' rain falls

Gwen Vasquez
September 18, 2018

Tropical Storm Florence's relentless rain is flooding parts of the Carolinas and promises even more for days, officials said Saturday, a day after it landed as a hurricane and left at least eight people dead - including a baby.

Gusts of winds in the 50 to 100 mph hour range were also reported since Hurricane Florence came ashore at 7:15 a.m. Friday, and the National Hurricane Center predicted trees would be knocked down.

"I can not overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life", Governor Roy Cooper said.

"The worst of the storm is behind us", she said.

Asked if he had spoken with President Donald Trump -a politically ally whom McMaster backed very early in the 2016 campaign- the governor says the president reassured him SC would get federal assistance to dig out.

With flood waters rising rapidly in many communities, stranded people were being rescued by boat and by helicopter, while tens of thousands of others hunkered down in shelters.

As rivers swelled toward record levels, state regulators and environmental groups were monitoring the threat from very big hog and poultry farms located in low-lying, flood-prone areas.

Utility crews worked to restore electricity.

Heavy rains: Up to 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) falling on seven states over seven days, as much water as there is the entire Chesapeake Bay.

The number of homes covered is down 3 percent in North Carolina and 6 percent SC compared with five years ago.

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.

A reporter for WWAY, the CNN Wilmington affiliate, said the Wilmington firefighters were "shaken up" by what they encountered at the home of the deceased mother and child.

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As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, millions were at risk from wind, storm surge and flooding, causing many to seek higher ground.

The coastal town of New Bern, North Carolina, wasn't hit head-on by Tropical Storm Florence, but it was hit hard, with flooding that trapped people in their homes and prompted 455 rescues, a city spokeswoman said Saturday.

Florence set a record in the state for rain from a hurricane, surpassing the previous record of 24 inches (61 cm) set by Hurricane Floyd, which killed 56 people in 1999, said Bryce Link, a meteorologist with private forecasting service DTN Marine Weather.

- A woman in SC died after striking a downed tree while she was driving.

Oliver Kelly, 1 year old, cries as he is carried off the sheriff's airboat during his rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area until at least Monday morning and said up to 8 inches (20 cm) more rain could fall in some areas, creating an elevated risk for landslides in Western North Carolina.

Sandie Orsa is waiting out Hurricane Florence in a hotel in Wilmington. Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.

"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern to a hotel some 80 miles (130 km) away.

As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, Florence was about 20 miles (35 kilometers) southwest of Columbia, South Carolina. As her son fed the goats in a hotel parking lot, she said she might not be able to return home until the middle of next week.

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