Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Florence death toll rises to 5 amid massive deluge

Florence death toll rises to 5 amid massive deluge

After blowing ashore as a hurricane with winds of 90 miles per hour (145 kph), Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. Seventy people had to be pulled from a collapsing hotel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued.

There have been seven storm-related deaths since Florence, then a Category-1 hurricane, made landfall Friday morning.

Earlier Saturday, officials in North Carolina's Carteret County said two people were dead as a result of the storm. The river is forecast to crest more than three feet above its previous record set during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when much of the same area experienced devastating floods.

John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile from the river. He moved quickly as workers helped him empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse in a low-lying strip mall.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering". They then carry the two canines into their boat.

On U.S. Route 401 nearby, rain rose in ditches and around unharvested tobacco crops along the road.

Further along the Cape Fear River, grass and trees lining the banks were partly submerged, still well below a highway bridge crossing it.

Former congressman and GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis - an ardent Trump defender who campaigned with the president during the Republican primary - also said he disagreed with Trump Thursday.

Elsewhere, officials in Harnett County urged residents of about 1,100 homes to clear out because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels.

Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

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"Know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood", said Governor Roy Cooper.

At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), the National Hurricane Center said Florence had maximum sustained winds near 45 miles per hour.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas, while Wilmington set a curfew on Saturday evening in response to looting in one area.

More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power September 14 morning according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid. Another creek backed up into their basement Friday, but based on past experience Eubanks and his wife think the worst is over for them. "We're asking people, please stay off the streets unless it is an absolute emergency", he said. "I was looking for water moccasins to hit me at any time", he said.

The coal-fired Sutton plant was retired in 2013 and the company has been excavating millions of tons of ash from old waste pits and removing it to safer lined landfills constructed on the property. The ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

Along coastal communities, people trapped in homes by relentless flood waters awaited rescue, and tens of thousands hunkered down in shelters after fleeing their homes as the storm approached.

"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said at a news conference. Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

In New Bern, along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people.

"Right now we've rescued over 400 people".

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