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۵ Dead, ‘Catastrophic Flooding’ as Florence Hovers Over Carolinas

September 15, 2018 by  

At least five people were dead and almost a million homes and businesses were without power Saturday as Tropical Storm Florence forced evacuations and created flooding in a portion of the U.S. South. The National Hurricane Center said the storm’s “heavy rains and catastrophic flooding continue across portions of North and South Carolina.” In addition, the center said tornadoes were possible Saturday in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina. Forecasters were most worried about the storm’s 6-kph (3.6-mph) westward movement, not its 75-kph (47-mph) wind. The slow speed was giving it more time to whip up massive amounts of rain. The hurricane center predicted as much as 101 centimeters of rain (40 inches) for some parts of North Carolina.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm after barreling into North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane with damaging winds and heavy rain.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday that despite the downgrade, Florence was still “unloading epic amounts of rainfall” and still very capable of wiping out entire communities.

“The flood danger from this storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall 24 hours ago,” he said. “We face walls of water at our coast, along our rivers, across farmland, in our cities and in our towns.”

Cooper said floodwaters were continuing to rise, and he urged evacuees to “stay put” until they received “the official all-clear.”

Police in Wilmington, North Carolina, said a mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their house. Another woman died from a heart attack after calling emergency services, as paramedics could not reach her because of fallen trees. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain. Another man died when he was knocked down by high winds while checking on his dogs.

The White House announced Saturday that President Donald Trump had declared a “major disaster” existed in North Carolina, freeing up federal funds and resources for recovery efforts.

 

The hurricane center said Florence was moving slowly inland with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph and higher gusts. By Saturday afternoon, the storm was over eastern South Carolina, 85 kilometers (53 miles) west of the coastal resort city of Myrtle Beach.

Florence was expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Saturday night as it moved inland.

Hundreds of people in North Carolina have been rescued from rising water. Authorities said they had received more than 150 telephone calls to rescue people in the historic town of New Bern alone because water had entered their homes.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

“I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the Earth,” he said.

 

New Bern resident Latasha Jones was one of the more fortunate ones.

“The evacuation was countywide, but since we’re not in a flood zone, we weren’t really worried about that,” she told VOA.

“The way our house sits, it’s elevated. We have steps on the sides of the house, so it’s a few feet off the ground anyway. And since we’re already on high ground, those two things together kind of help insulate us a little more than, I would say, others,” she said.

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