Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Science | By

Florence, a smelly wet unwanted visitor, besieges Carolinas


"This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news briefing about a storm that forecasters said was 300 miles (480 km) wide.

Florence already has set a North Carolina record for rainfall totals, exceeding that of Hurricane Floyd, which struck in 1999 and caused 56 deaths.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

By 2 p.m. Saturday, the storm won't even be halfway across SC, forecasters say.

In Wilmington, numerous trees that contributed to its historic beauty are now gone.

"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is unbelievable and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood on Saturday.

As much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain could fall on coastal areas in North and SC, the National Hurricane Center said.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm later, its winds weakened to 60 mph (95 kph) as it moved forward at 5 mph (7 kph) about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

The mother and baby are among five storm-related deaths.

"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars". Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world.


"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added.

This story was compiled from McClatchy papers in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer; and in South Carolina, The State in Columbia, the Beaufort Gazette, The Island Packet in Hilton Head and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach; and supplemented with wire service reports.

As of 11:00 am (1500 GMT), maximum sustained winds had weakened to near 45 miles (75 kilometres) per hour, but the NHC warned residents of unsafe storm surges and "catastrophic flash flooding".

Police in Wilmington confirmed the mother, Lesha Murphy-Johnson, and baby Adam died, with the tot's father rescued and rushed to the hospital. Paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

USA media later said a second man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.

Portions of North Myrtle Beach saw flash flooding Friday afternoon with knee-deep standing water. Officials in South Carolina's Craven County say conditions are much worse than some residents expected, with almost 500 people calling the local emergency services hotline asking for help.

New Bern's mayor said 4,200 homes were damaged in the city. Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.

"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern to a hotel some 80 miles (130 km) away.

Coastal streets flowed with ocean water, and more than 460,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.

More than 12,000 were in shelters in North Carolina.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

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