Millions in the way of Florence as it creeps across the Carolinas

Millions of people were in the path of Florence, as the powerful storm crept in the inland area Saturday, dumping heavy rain and threatening catastrophic flooding around the Carolinas. Here are snapshots of people struggling with the remnants of the hurricane:


Tropical Storm Florence has Michael Johnson keeping a close eye on the creek that flooded his apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, almost three years ago.

The rain fell steadily over Columbia on Saturday as the slow storm crawled to the west in the direction of South Carolina’s capital city. Forecasters warned Florence’s largest inland port threat was the flood, caused by the rain.

Johnson said the knee-deep water out of the Gills Creek behind his apartment on the ground floor is put under water in the building and a number of others in his complex in October 2015 with a distant hurricane caused devastating floods in the Carolina’s, even if he had passed on the east coast. Many residents had to be rescued by a boat.

Johnson continued to look out the glass door of his apartment Saturday. His wife had worked an overnight shift at a local Waffle House, and now she looked with bags packed, ready to evacuate with their dog at the first sign of a possible flood.

Said Johnson: “as soon as I see some water rise, I’m gone.”


Sandra Rivera was at her job at Sears on Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when her husband called and said that he was picking her right away.

A patrol car had circled their Fayetteville subdivision to announce through the loudspeaker that they are under an immediate mandatory evacuation for Cape Fear River continued to swell from Florence pelting rains.

She was shocked. They had the Hurricane Matthew in 2016 without any problems. They did not even know that they lived close to the river, which runs approximately a half mile (less than a kilometer away from the hotel.

She rushed home and started packing the car with clothes, essentials, and her three dogs. They moved their valuables to the second floor and were preparing to take off to stay with friends for a few days. They don’t know what they will come back home to. But, said she, her husband and two children out of the danger zone and that is what counts.

“Whatever is going to happen, will happen,” she said. “It is the nature, I can’t control it.”


Seventy-one-year-old Patricia Dixon and her husband Graham Dixon, 73, returned Saturday to their home in the vicinity of New Berne after being trapped in the attic of about 17 hours when Florence flooded their home and their neighborhood earlier this week.

The winds pushed the water in the river in a more that usually laps against their backyard, something that had never happened before. The water swept up in their ranch house, up to three feet (1 meter) deep on the first floor, built above the ground. The couple grabbed dry clothes, food, water, and their dog, and climbed up into their attic when the wind cried, afraid that they would be caught, Patricia Dixon said.

“I’ll tell you,” she said, “when we were up in that attic and that wind started to come, I have never prayed so hard in my life. I swear that I was doing non-stop praying, because that wind was booming, crashing. And I thought, Oh God, if this roof goes, we’re off.”

The couple had put a new roof on the house a month ago.

The water rose about six inches (15 centimeters) an hour until it stopped. When it began retreating, and the fire department came with a truck to take the Dixons from Friday afternoon, Graham Dixon said.


On the other side of the River Trent of New Bern, North Carolina, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned Saturday to the home rescuers helped them leave, only a day earlier. She came back to collect the dry clothes and the size of the debris left after wind-driven waters rose and flooded their house with a foot (12 inches) of water.

It was the first time since the couple built the home 28 years ago that the lake behind their house overflowed. Water pushed up by Hurricane Florence came of a creek, about a mile (1.6 km) flows to the Neuse River, said Jerry Andrews, 67.

The couple and their daughter called 911 for help late Thursday when the water came in, ” he said. A high-axle truck and the crew made it for them Friday afternoon.

“It was 40-mile-an-hour-or better in gusts and it’s raining like crazy,” Jerry Andrews said. “It was pretty heavy.”

On Saturday, a fishing boat on a trailer, which was about two meters away, rested on the rear property line. The family sedan, pick-up and SUV were all parked on the lawn and it’s likely that the total losses after the water rose above their axes, Jerry Andrews said.

And down the stairs to the porch, a cluster of carp flopped about in the backyard after being brought in by the flood.


Katelyn French was at a loss when her nine months of planning to get married this weekend in North Carolina mountains was washed away by Florence. But then family and friends in Florida Panhandle stepped up to her and her fiancé, Matt Parsons, a dream wedding a little closer to home.

Her aunt, April Crosby, opened her home on a lake in Chipley, Florida, for the wedding.

French tells a Panama City television station WMBB that her aunt told her not to worry, since the wedding would be “amazing.”

Friends and family set up a bench in the backyard more, strung lights from the trees and folded cloth napkins in preparation for Saturday’s wedding.

French says what appeared to be a disaster ended up as a blessing.


Associated Press writers Russ Bynum reported from Columbia, South Carolina, Claire Galofaro from Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Emery Dalesio of New Bern, North Carolina.

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