Storm Florence's drenching rains kill 23 in the Carolinas

Gwen Vasquez
September 17, 2018

Florence cut off the coastal city of Wilmington, damaging tens of thousands of homes and threatening worse flooding as rivers fill to bursting point.

The death toll rose to at least 14 from Florence, which crashed into the state as a hurricane on Friday, bringing record rainfall.

In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said: "The risk to life is rising with the angry waters".

Up to 20,000 people are in emergency shelters in North Carolina alone.

In many areas, the brief period of sun was wiped out by more rain but some evacuated residents were able to return to their homes to assess damage. "Just so that you know, we are staying here to keep you up to date".

Fresh evacuations were ordered further inland as rivers crested and spilled out of their banks.

A 3-month-old baby boy whose North Carolina mobile home was split by a falling pine tree is among at least 17 deaths linked to Florence.

The number of Americans with flood insurance is on the rise, yet Hurricane Florence is likely to make it painfully clear that too many homeowners in the Carolinas and other vulnerable regions remain unprotected.

"We're going to try to spread out supplies as best we can in the areas that need it the worst, understanding that our citizens in Woodrow, off of Oaks Road, are in desperate need".

Petrol stations were abandoned, with many pumps keeled over, and trees cluttered many roads, making them impassable. Conway city officials also expressed concerns with the county and state's flood-mitigation plan on the U.S. Highway 501 bridge.

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Radar showed parts of the sprawling storm over six states, with North and SC in the bull's-eye.

Lloyd Long says the Red Cross has several shelters across the region ready. About 484,000 still did not have power, Cooper said. When the sun finally comes out later this week, it's going to take a long time to dry out. Police were guarding the door of one store, AP said, which would only let 10 people in at a time.

The deadly storm was still dumping rain and had top winds around 30 miles per hour early Monday, but forecasters said it was expected to gradually pick up forward speed and complete a big turn toward the Northeast, which also is in for a drenching of as much as 6 inches of rain.

The previous record was 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.

Around 50 stranded people were airlifted by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the US Coast Guard.

The Carolinas' swollen rivers are beginning to swamp coal ash dumps and low-lying hog farms.

City officials estimate there has been $6 million in damages so far, Stephens said.

Workers scramble to build a temporary dam to stop rising flood waters from Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, on September 16, 2018.

The centre of the storm was just west of Raleigh, the state capital, and moving north at 14 miles per hour (22 kph), the hurricane centre said.

The White House said President Donald Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts".

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