Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Florence pours on the rain amid fears of catastrophic floods

Sandra Phillips | 16 September, 2018, 10:13

WILMINGTON, N.C., Sept 15 (Reuters) - Tropical storm Florence lumbered inland on Saturday, knocking down trees, flooding rivers, and dumping sheets of rain in the Carolinas where five people have died.

"North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned in a briefing Saturday morning that more people in the state are in danger now than when Florence made landfall there on Friday".

Nakisa Glover, a National Climate Justice Fellow at Hip Hop Caucus based in North Carolina, said in a phone interview that while the mandatory evacuation orders might make "logical sense in theory, if you don't have the resources, you can't just leave your home in a lot of cases".

In North Carolina alone, there were 777,937 power outages as of 1:20 p.m. ET, according to North Carolina's Department of Public Safety.

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

The centre of the slow-moving storm, downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane after it came ashore Friday afternoon, was almost stalled over SC early Saturday, about 55 kilometres west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 8 km/h and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.

Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are possible in portions of North Carolina, South Carolina and the southern to central Appalachias to western North Carolina to west-central Virginia and far-eastern West Virginia into early next week, the National Weather Service said.

Authorities fear the death toll will go higher as the tropical storm crawls westwards across SC.

"The rainfall is epic and will continue to be", Cooper said.

"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars". "These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", city public information officer Colleen Roberts said.

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

On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km).

Meanwhile, in SC, at least one gator seemed to be cool with the outer bands of wind and rain that whipped the Myrtle Beach area.

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Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 360 people from rising water, while many of their neighbors awaited help. The governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

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Mauricio Domogan, mayor of the city of Baguio, said three people were killed in landslides and six were missing. A government damage assessment was underway except in areas still being battered by winds and rain.

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The hurricane centre downgraded Florence to a tropical storm later in the day. "Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of SC coast today".

The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house, while a sixth fatality occurred in SC. The woman's husband was injured in the incident and taken to a nearby hospital, according to police. Paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, the sheriff's office said. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.

The 18th century town, with a population of 30,000, has been badly flooded, with 4,200 homes damaged.

The guard has mobilized over 100 members and 35 shallow-water rescue boat teams.

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.

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.

And on Saturday evening, Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington, North Carolina.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

The White House said President Donald Trump approved making federal funding available in some affected counties.

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