Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Five dead in Carolinas as Florence brings ´epic´ floods

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Jeannette Daniel | 16 September, 2018, 03:01

More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), with its center located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Florence made landfall Friday as a Category 1 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, even as it continued to wreak havoc along the East Coast, downing trees and power lines and forcing 20,000 people to flee to shelters.

Dolphins have been seen swimming close to the shoreline in high water caused by Hurricane Florence.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.

As of Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center announced that Florence is now a tropical storm with maximum wind speeds of 45 miles per hour and said heavy rains and catastrophic flooding will continue across portions of North and SC.

A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the Miami-based hurricane center said rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.

In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges up to 10 feet (3 meters), authorities were rescuing stranded residents and taking stock of damages.

In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs. It blew ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

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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. The storm is some 645 kilometres wide. The eye moved from sea to land at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Two fins were spotted in the high water in Wilmington. The death not related to the hurricane and it is under investigation. More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed part of the roof.

Almost three feet of rain has fallen on portions of North Carolina, a reported record for the state for rainfall from a single storm.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons (36 trillion liters), enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimeters).

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm.

Volunteer rescue teams from across the country joined emergency responders in rescuing families trapped by the floodwaters.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. She was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited help.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington". Local media said she suffered a heart attack.

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