Death toll climbs as Florence batters the Carolinas
South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Bob Beres on the situation on the ground.
Tropical Depression Florence, which caused at least 13 dead and knocked out power for almost a million people, inundated parts of North Carolina with a record-shattering rainfall that is expected to push rivers over their banks in the coming days and could spawn dangerous mudslides.
The sluggish storm is expected to dump 5 to 10 inches of rain in western North Carolina and southwest Virginia, on top of the 20 to 30 inches that have already fallen since Florence came ashore Friday as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds.
The 13 fatalities were a mother and her 8-month-old child, who were killed when a huge tree crushed their house, a 61-year-old woman who was killed when the vehicle she was driving hit a tree, a 77-year-old man died after he went outside to check on his dogs and was blown away; three more people died as a result of flooding on the roads.
In North Carolina, 680,248 homes were without power and an additional 59,000 were without power in South Carolina. More than 26,000 people were in shelters in three states and more than 2,400 flights were canceled as a result of the storm.
FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Florence would continue to impact North Carolina and that the reconstruction could cost “in the billions of dollars” during an exclusive appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
[5 AM Sunday] Catastrophic, life threatening flooding risk today across much of NC, parts of SC, & southwest VA. Additional rainfall amounts of 5-10 cm are expected, which will produce flooding, river flooding and possible landslides in mountainous areas. pic.twitter.com/HpqNjtM4U5
— NWS WPC (@NWSWPC) September 16, 2018
“This is going to be a long, frustrating recovery,” Long said.
A few tornadoes were also possible, forecasters said. A tornado watch was issued early Sunday morning for New Hanover County until 5 p.m. EDT.
New Hanover County spokeswoman Janine Powell said the Port City Daily that residents evacuated should” stay away and get away from it all.”
Ernestine Crumpler, 80, is helped by members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team as they the evacuation of an assisted living facility in a church, as a precaution against possible flooding in the city could see tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N. C., Saturday, sept. 15, 2018.
“We have damage assessment teams this morning,” Powell said. “We just got word from the state highway patrol that I-40 is impassable.” I-40 is the main corridor between Wilmington and Raleigh.
Flash flood warnings were issued for parts of North Carolina, on Sunday until the afternoon.
In Fayetteville, the Cape Fear River on Sunday 3 metres away from flooding levels — hitting from 32 yards Sunday morning, rising 18 metres in 24 hours. The National Weather Service said that the flooding will worsen in the beginning of this week as the river eventually reach a height of more than 62 metres.
#NWS Morehead City Team from the first storm survey for #Florence. We measure the evidence of the storm surge of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Bogue Sound, right at the end of the Atlantic Beach Bridge. #ScienceIsCool #NCwx pic.twitter.com/VO8qYt7dbc
— NWS Newport/Morehead (@NWSMoreheadCity) September 15, 2018
FLORENCE WEAKENED TO A TROPICAL DEPRESSION, BUT FLOOD THREAT REMAINS
In other areas, such as the Tar River at Greenville, the National Weather Service has reported “devastating flooding similar to Hurricane Floyd.”
“Plenty of houses adjacent to the river in the centre of Greenville can be flooded. All roads in and around the City are flooded and impassable. Tributaries to back up and flood homes, businesses and roads in areas that are miles away from the river,” the NWS reported on its website early Sunday morning.
Tommy Chisenhall saves a dog from a house on the Mill Creek Road after Hurricane Florence hit Newport, N. C., Saturday, sept. 15, 2018
Meteorologist Ryan Maue, of weathermodels.com it has been calculated that Florence could dump up to 18 billion litres of rain a week in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That is enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or the entire state of Texas with nearly 4 inches of water.
North Carolina, only is the weather to get 9.6 trillion liters, enough to the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches.
In Lumberton, the Lumber River is experiencing major flooding, after a rise to 19 feet early Sunday. Forecasters predict the waters will be 24 feet by the afternoon of Monday, which could tie a record set by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
State officials warned that travel is “extremely dangerous across North Carolina,” and drivers were asked to avoid all roads in the south of the USA. 64 and east of Interstate 73/74. Officials published a map with a safer route bypasses North Carolina as a whole.
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Duke Energy said Saturday that the heavy rains of Florence caused a hillside to collapse onto the shaft of a coal deposit on a closed powe station outside of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan told the Citizen times that approximately 2,000 cubic metres of the shaft are displaced at the Sutton Plant, and that the dirty rain water probably flowed in Sutton Lake, the plant cooling pond.
The company has not determined whether any contamination may have flowed into the swollen Cape Fear River, and Sheehan said the company reported the incident to the state and federal regulators.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence a “uninvited ” brute” that could wipe out entire communities if he spins his way across country.
“The face of this storm is deadly and we know that we are days away from the end,” Cooper said.
Authorities in Wilmington on Saturday arrested five persons who broke into and stole items from a Dollar General. Against them are pending, and the details are not released yet.
Wilmington city officials set up a citywide curfew of 10 pm to 6 am, and many roads remained closed.
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.