Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

'Relentless rains' continue as Florence almost stalls over Carolinas

'Relentless rains' continue as Florence almost stalls over Carolinas

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesVolunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.

Florence continues to bring rains and threaten lives on the east coast of the U.S. even after it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm after making landfall.

"This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday.

More than a dozen major rivers in the Carolinas and southern Virginia are forecast by the National Weather Service to reach flood stage, and some - including the Neuse, Pamlico, Lumber, Waccamaw, Northeast Cape Fear and the Pee Dee rivers - are expected to set flood records.

Florence "will continue to track slowly inland through the Carolinas this weekend", the National Weather Service said in its 8:00 a.m. update Saturday.

The NWS says southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast SC are expected to report an additional 10 to 15 inches of rainfall - with storm totals between 30 and 40 inches along the coastal areas south of Cape Hatteras.

Tropical Storm Florence hit the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast on Friday, triggering risky flooding, knocking out power in almost 900,000 homes and businesses, and causing at least eight deaths. "If those shelters fill up, we will establish more shelters", Cooper said.

Rivers and creeks rose toward historic levels, threatening flash flooding that could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges. The slow-moving storm is still dumping colossal amounts of rain on North Carolina and parts of northern SC.

North Carolina officials have reported at least seven storm-related fatalities with unconfirmed reports of a further three deaths.

"Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of SC coast today".

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Trump, who plans a visit to the region next week, tweeted his "deepest sympathies and warmth" to the families and friends of those who had lost their lives.

Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

Southwestern Virginia is also expecting up to 10in (25cm).

"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.

"The worst is yet to come", he added. The remnants of Florence are expected to hit the peaks of western North Carolina in a couple of days.

On Saturday, its streets were strewn with downed tree limbs and carpeted with leaves and other debris.

Utility crews worked to restore electricity even as flood waters inundated whole communities.

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.

Officials had warned before the storm that the rains could risk tainting waterways with murky coal ash and toxic hog waste. - A 78-year-old man was electrocuted in the rain while trying to connect extension cords for a generator, Lenoir County, North Carolina spokesman Bryan Hanks says.

Hundreds were rescued in New Bern, a city of 30,000 at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.

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