Florence is leaving heavy flooding in the Carolinas, with at least 7 dead

Posted at 8:47 AM, Sep 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-15 13:38:52-04

WILMINGTON, N.C. (CNN) — Tropical Storm Florence’s relentless rain has caused devastating flooding in the Carolinas and promises even more ahead as Saturday progresses, a day after it landed as a hurricane and left at least seven people dead — including a baby.

The storm’s center is crawling inland over South Carolina, but its main rain bands largely are over already-saturated North Carolina — setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.

“The same places have seen all of this water, and the same places will see more water,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Saturday morning.

“The (rain) blasting, the true devastation, is occurring right now in North Carolina.”

Florence crashed ashore Friday morning in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, and it has left about 950,000 customers without power in that state and South Carolina.

People are trapped in flooded homes, with citizen swift-water rescue teams from out of state joining local emergency professionals around the clock to try and bring them to safety.

The storm will dump rain in the Carolinas through the weekend, overwhelming rivers and setting up days of flooding, before reaching the Ohio Valley.

Key developments

• Florence’s location: By 8 a.m. Saturday, Florence’s center was 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. It was moving west at 2 mph, the National Weather Service said.

• Prolonged winds: Florence’s tropical storm-force winds (at least 39 mph) extend 175 milesfrom its center.

• No electricity: About 786,000 customers are without power in North Carolina, emergency officials said. In neighboring South Carolina, 165,000 customers are without power, officials said.

• Ready mode”: US Army forces and National Guard troops are in “ready mode” to provide support, including water purification, high water vehicles and rotary wing aircraft.

• Flooding for miles: By storm’s end, up to 40 inches of rain will have fallen in parts of North Carolina and far northeastern South Carolina, setting up catastrophic flash flooding and river flooding, the National Hurricane Center said. It said there will be “flooding miles and miles inland.” Some other parts of South Carolina could see rainfall totals of up to 15 inches, forecasters said.

• Rising rivers: Rivers in North Carolina are expected to crest higher than during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew in some areas, emergency officials said.

Trapped and rescued: In hard-hit New Bern, North Carolina, rescuers plucked more than 200 people from rising waters Friday. About 150 more had to wait to be rescued as conditions worsened. That number was down to 40 later Friday.

At least 7 have been killed

Florence has left at least seven people dead, including a mother and her child who died after a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina, police said. The father was hospitalized with injuries.

In Hampstead, North Carolina, emergency responders going to a call for cardiac arrest found their path blocked by downed trees. When they got to the home, the woman was dead, authorities said.

Two men were also killed in Lenoir County, North Carolina. One was electrocuted while hooking up a generator and the other while checking on his dogs outside, emergency officials said..

Two other people died in North Carolina’s Carteret County, according to the county’s emergency management services office. Details about those deaths weren’t immediately available.

She called 911. No one came

Those who stayed behind gave harrowing accounts of getting trapped in their homes surrounded by water.

Annazette Riley-Cromartie said she and her family thought they’d be safe in their brick house in eastern North Carolina. But the water kept rising.

She, her husband and three children escaped into the attic, but the winds howled, and the family fled to an upper floor bedroom.

As they waited for emergency workers, they heard neighbors screaming for help. Her 6-foot-2 husband went to see what he could do, but the water was above his chest, she said.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world to hear people yelling for help, and you can’t do anything,” she said.

She said she called 911, but no one came. Eventually, a volunteer rescue team from Indiana arrived with a boat and rescued them.

States of emergency

Rainfall totals for the storm will be similar to those in hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999, the National Weather Service’s Chris Wamsley said

“The only difference is, back then it was within 14 days,” he said. With Florence, it’ll be the same amount of rainfall in three days.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

Sign up for Florence alerts

Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm will travel through upstate South Carolina, be downgraded to a tropical depression, then turn north toward the Ohio Valley.

As it moves near Ohio and West Virginia, it will become a remnant low. Then it will swing to the northeast in the middle of next week on a path to the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia, where it will be an extratropical low with gale-force winds.

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