Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Flood waters rise, eight killed as Florence dumps 'epic' rain on Carolinas

Flood waters rise, eight killed as Florence dumps 'epic' rain on Carolinas

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.

"This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday.

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

Further along the Cape Fear River, grass and trees lining the banks were partly submerged, still well below a highway bridge crossing it.

The Florence center is crawling inland over SC, but its main rain bands are hitting already-saturated North Carolina - setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering".

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

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"Amazing. They did awesome", said Knox, who was stranded with seven others including a boy in a life vest.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas. "Catastrophic flooding, long term major river flooding, life-threatening storm surge, and wind damage are occurring or imminent".

The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas, while Wilmington set a curfew on Saturday evening in response to looting in one area.

By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm's slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.

Along with this projection, NHC warned of "life-threatening" storm surges and floods throughout both North Carolina and SC. The city tweeted early September 14 that 150 people were awaiting rescue.

Power outages mounted until almost 700,000 customers were in the dark in North Carolina alone.

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Downgraded to a Tropical Storm, its core is now drifting westward over SC, threatening more flash floods and major river flooding. That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

Near the Sutton Power Plant in Wilmington, coal ash leaked from a Duke Energy landfill. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury. Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 360 people from rising water, while many of their neighbors awaited help.

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

In North Carolina, the mother and her baby were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell on their house, Cooper said late Friday.

The White House said President Donald Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts". SC recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her auto hit a tree that had fallen across a highway. Floyd produced 24 inches of rain in some parts of the state, while Florence has already dumped about 30 inches in areas around Swansboro.

According to Doll, many areas in North Carolina are seeing somewhere between 10 and 20 inches of rain.

Florence's remnants are expected to keep traveling north and then northeast and could drop several inches of rain in eastern Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet. At least 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia have been warned to evacuate, and others are hunkering down.


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