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UPDATE: Florence now blamed for seven deaths in the Carolinas

More than two feet of rain reported in some places.

Posted: Sep 15, 2018 2:17 PM
Updated: Sep 15, 2018 2:56 PM

NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — Thousands of people living near North Carolina's rising rivers were ordered evacuated Saturday as hurricane-turned-tropical storm Florence practically parked itself over land and poured on the rain Saturday, raising fears that the state could be in for the most destructive flooding in its history.

The death toll climbed to at least seven.

A day after Florence blew ashore in North Carolina with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and other rescue crews used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles to reach scores of people trapped on rooftops or otherwise caught in the floodwaters.

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet by the end of the weekend.

Rivers and creeks rose toward record levels, threatening flash flooding that could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges.

"I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them you are risking your life," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

As of 2 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles (85 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, inching west at 3 mph (6 kph) — about as fast as a person walks. Its winds were down to 45 mph (75 kph). With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses. But the storm was shaping up as a two-part disaster, with the second, delayed-action stage consisting of epic inland flooding, caused by rainwater working its way into rivers and streams.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

Officials in North Carolina's Harnett County, about 90 miles inland, urged residents of about 1,100 homes to clear out because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels.

One potential road out was blocked as flooding forced the shutdown of a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95, the main highway along the Eastern Seaboard.

In New Bern , along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people. More than 360 people had been carried to safety since Thursday night.

Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, part of a team that was using a phone app to locate people in distress. Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neighborhood, navigating through trees and past a fencepost to get to the Knox house.

"Amazing. They did awesome," said Knox, who was stranded with seven others, including a boy who was carried out in a life vest. "If not we'd be stuck upstairs for the next ... how long? I have no idea."

Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.

Coast Guard helicopters were taking off across the street to rescue stranded people. Coast Guardsmen said choppers had made about 50 rescues in and around New Bern and Jacksonville as of noon.

Also, Marines rescued about 20 civilians from floodwaters near Camp Lejeune, using Humvees and assault amphibious vehicles, the base reported.

Along the Lumber River in Lumberton , workers used heavy machinery to dump extra sand on a railbed prone to flooding. Not far away, Jackie and Quinton Washington watched water filling both their front and back yards near the river.

Hurricane Matthew sent more than 5 feet of water into their home in 2016, and the couple feared Florence would run them out again.

"If it goes up to my front step, I have to get out," Quintin Washington said.

The dead included a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.

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

As of noon, Emerald Isle had over 23 inches of rain, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot. North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had around 7 inches.

Stream gauges across the region showed water levels steadily rising, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels. The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to rise over their banks, flooding cities and towns.

The storm interrupted a September rite in the South: college football. Schools canceled, postponed, switched sites or changed kickoff times because of Florence. No. 2 Clemson and Georgia Southern had sunny skies and unseasonably mild weather for the only major conference game being played in the Carolinas and Virginia.

The hurricane center said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

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).

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 91422

Reported Deaths: 2031
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26147923
Ramsey10595318
Dakota7250125
Anoka5836132
Stearns383324
Washington362755
Scott247333
Olmsted232927
Nobles193816
Blue Earth16166
Wright15497
St. Louis141936
Carver13657
Rice13098
Mower13015
Clay128840
Sherburne110914
Kandiyohi9362
Winona85318
Lyon6554
Waseca5508
Freeborn5263
Steele5262
Benton5173
Nicollet51316
Watonwan5114
Todd4812
Chisago4621
McLeod4612
Le Sueur4464
Crow Wing44418
Otter Tail4024
Beltrami3805
Martin34310
Goodhue3409
Itasca28913
Pine2870
Polk2774
Isanti2680
Douglas2672
Becker2512
Carlton2461
Unassigned22052
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone21510
Morrison2131
Dodge2090
Chippewa1981
Meeker1872
Sibley1873
Brown1812
Wabasha1810
Yellow Medicine1622
Rock1590
Murray1552
Mille Lacs1523
Redwood1441
Jackson1361
Renville1367
Cass1343
Faribault1330
Swift1231
Roseau1170
Houston1150
Kanabec1148
Pennington1131
Fillmore1100
Koochiching1103
Lincoln1030
Stevens931
Pope890
Hubbard851
Aitkin761
Big Stone710
Wadena670
Grant594
Wilkin573
Lake560
Norman520
Marshall501
Lac qui Parle471
Mahnomen461
Red Lake381
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 81296

Reported Deaths: 1284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15404259
Woodbury506463
Johnson502827
Black Hawk439688
Linn3832108
Story334017
Dubuque289141
Scott283528
Dallas270038
Pottawattamie200638
Buena Vista195512
Marshall176434
Sioux14163
Wapello128057
Webster120914
Clinton108020
Muscatine107854
Plymouth106220
Crawford10215
Cerro Gordo100721
Warren9396
Jasper78332
Des Moines7477
Marion7345
Tama69531
Carroll6445
Henry6314
Lee6097
Wright5651
Dickinson4876
Boone4808
Bremer4717
Washington44011
Louisa42615
Mahaska35819
Delaware3493
Franklin34418
Hamilton3173
Jackson3103
Floyd3063
Winneshiek3045
Clay3014
Benton2921
Hardin2851
Winnebago27813
Lyon2694
Butler2632
Clarke2613
Poweshiek2588
Buchanan2551
Emmet25310
Allamakee2516
Jones2513
Shelby2501
Clayton2383
Kossuth2370
Guthrie2315
Cedar2261
Chickasaw2250
Sac2220
Cherokee2122
Grundy2103
Madison2072
Fayette2032
Iowa1931
Harrison1892
Howard1836
Mitchell1830
Humboldt1773
Calhoun1762
Hancock1762
Mills1681
Palo Alto1650
Pocahontas1542
Lucas1536
Monroe15110
Monona1421
Page1420
Cass1392
Osceola1390
Jefferson1341
Appanoose1263
Taylor1251
Union1233
Davis1184
Van Buren1111
Ida1050
Worth1030
Keokuk951
Greene940
Fremont900
Montgomery905
Wayne842
Audubon701
Adair681
Decatur630
Ringgold452
Adams290
Unassigned80
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