Florence Death Toll At 17, Hardest Hit Areas May Be Without Power For Weeks

Wilmington, North Carolina, the hardest hit city, has been virtually cut-off from the rest of the state by rising flood waters. Here are the details…

from Zero Hedge

The storm that is now known as Tropical Depression Florence has seen its winds slacken since it first reached the Carolina coast on Friday (though it has battered parts of the state with wind and rains since Thursday), but the unceasing rains have continued, breaking floodwater records in North Carolina and pushing the death toll from the disaster past 17 individuals, as exhausted first responders have been overwhelmed by the number of calls. Meanwhile, more than 1 million people remain without power in the region, according to the Department of Energy (though the DoE said it had some success in restoring access to customers).

However, some of the hardest-hit areas may be without power for weeks.

“We still continue to see heavy rainfalls in both states,” Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said of North and South Carolina. “We want citizens to follow state and local warnings. There is a tremendous amount of flooding.”

With the damage and mayhem wrought by the storm exceeding expectations, the federal government was scrambling on Monday to mobilize thousands of National Guard soldiers and scores of aircraft. The Army Corps of Engineers continued to monitor federal dams and help with rescues as pumps and portable barriers were deployed while specialized search-and-rescue teams arrived from as far away as New York and Nevada. 

 

According to the Washington Post, the city of Wilmington – which has been the hardest hit city – has been “virtually cut off” from the rest of the state by the rising floodwaters. At least 450 people have been rescued.

As one state official warned, “do not come here.”

It is impossible to get in and out of the city now. Flooding closed interstates and secondary roads, choking it off by land. The airport has been shuttered since Wednesday. It is not accessible by sea, with the Port of Wilmington on Cape Fear River closed.

Wilmington likely will stay marooned for at least another day. It is still raining. It has been raining nearly constantly for days. The rivers are still rising, widespread flooding is expected, and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said the storm has “never been more dangerous.”

But while the storm was losing strength, most expected the flooding to continue as city and state officials in North Carolina continued to urge residents to evacuate if they could, per the New York Times.

As farm fields and riverside neighborhoods filled up with water, residents braced for what they predicted would be nightmare flooding over the next two days, and city officials urged people in about 2,800 homes along the Cape Fear River to evacuate.

The river, swollen with fallen trees, had already risen to 38 feet by Sunday and was expected to crest at 62 feet or more, enough to send its waters sweeping through downtown Fayetteville and over its bridges.

In Hope Mills, NC, city officials feared that a local dam would soon breach.

In nearby Hope Mills, N.C., water began rushing over the top of a dam early Sunday, prompting fears, once again, of a breach. Dams in the same location have failed twice in the last two decades, in 2003 and again in 2010. The latest dam is less than two years old.

Jackie Warner, the mayor of Hope Mills, said she had spoken with engineers who expected the dam to hold this time. Still, the water kept coming -— higher, she said, than anyone had thought.

“We don’t have any control over this amount of water,” Mayor Warner said. Between 300 and 500 people live below the dam, she said, but most had already been evacuated.

According to Fox News, the death toll rose to 17 after a three-month-old infant died when a pine tree crashed into a mobile home in Dallas, NC.

The large pine tree split the mobile home down its center, Police Capt. Jon Leatherwood said. The tragedy happened around 12:45 p.m., the Gaston Gazette reported. The paper identified the child as Kade Gill. Leatherwood said the boy’s father and mother were home but not hurt.

The boy’s home in Dallas is about 240 miles west of where Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday in Wrightsville Beach, Gaston County manager Earl Mathers said.

Officials blamed rain and wind from the storm’s remnants on the falling tree, county spokesman James McConnell told The Associated Press.

The remnants of Florence have pounded Gaston County with heavy rainfall since Friday night, the Gazette reported. Before Gill’s death, no serious injuries or deaths were reported in the county.

As roads closed and bridges are swamped with river water (with more closures expected next week), the Mayor of Fayetteville, NC offered an apt summary of the situation. Per the New York Times, an exasperated Colvin claimed that “things are deteriorating.”

“It’s horrible,” said Mitch Colvin, the mayor of Fayetteville, N.C., in the eastern part of the state, where the rising Cape Fear River was expected to swamp bridges and cut his city in two in the next few days. “Things are deteriorating,” he said.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Roy Cooper exclaimed that the storm “has never been more dangerous than it has been right now.” In support of this, Cooper said all 100 counties in his state had at least one National Weather Service alert, from a flash-flood warning to a hazardous weather outlook, in effect for Sunday or the days ahead. In contrast, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said that, though the death toll in his state continues to rise, his state has probably seen the worst of the storm.

While many of the cranes remained undamaged, Bloomberg reported that warehouses and other structures at both the port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City had been closed and would remain shuttered until Wednesday.

Thousands of rescue workers have saved nearly 500 people from rising floodwaters in Wilmington. As the NYT reported, the men and women who had risked their lives to save others were trying to rally in a church parking lot after working for 2 days straight.

“The water got so high, I couldn’t believe it,” said Brett Neely, a firefighter from Pennsylvania who estimated that he had helped rescue 40 to 50 people, from a newborn to a 75-year-old.

The storm – now a tropical depression – was stubbornly lingering over central South Carolina, battering structures with wind speeds of up to 35 mph. Meteorologists expect Florence to make its way toward Charlotte, NC on Monday, and a flood warning was in effect for that part of the state.

still carrying wind speeds of up to 35 mph, the stubbornly slow system is presently centered over central South Carolina and was presently making its way toward Charlotte, NC. Florence has already broken NC’s rainfall record with more than 30 inches of rain reported in Swansboro, NC. That surpassed the previous record set during Hurricane Floyd back in 1999. Though Gov. Cooper warned that the storm could still dump another 2 to 3 inches of rain on the state.

Or, as officials explained, the worst is yet to come.

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(pic source)