Monday, 24 September, 2018

Florence, a wet and unwanted visitor, besieges Carolinas

Florence rolls ashore in Carolinas, tears buildings apart Hurricane Florence rolls ashore in Carolinas, tears buildings apart
Elijah Vega | 15 September, 2018, 21:08

"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.

Most of the rivers in northeast SC and eastern North Carolina are experiencing moderate to major flooding and, in some cases, many continue rising well into next week as floodwaters from the interior flow downstream.

Florence will ultimately lose its tropical designation sometime Saturday, but the storm will continue be a danger as it starts to turn north by Sunday afternoon. As of Saturday morning, a large swath of the Carolinas were still seeing up to 2 inches of rainfall every hour, and relief might not come for days.

Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to dump risky amounts of rain as it continues its slow slog across the Carolinas.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, triggering unsafe flooding, toppling trees, cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses while causing at least five deaths.

The NWS says southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast SC are expected to report an additional 10 to 15 inches of rainfall - with storm totals between 30 and 40 inches along the coastal areas south of Cape Hatteras. As the storm stalled, forecasters warned "torrential rains will come:" an additional 20 to 25 inches in eastern North Carolina and up to 15 inches inland. The city of New Bern tweeted to its residents early Friday morning, "We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue".

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 deadly effects of the storm are a result of Florence slowing down in its path, pummelling areas with monumental rains and severe wind.

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Tornadoes are also a threat, with the NHC saying that "a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern SC".

It is expected to move across parts of south-eastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.

"Life-threatening storm surge will continue along portions of the North Carolina coast through today, and also along the Neuse and Pamlico Sound, where rainfall and fresh water flooding will also contribute to high water levels", the update read.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Florence is forecast to "drop nearly double" the volume of rain over the state compared to Floyd, tweeted Ryan Maue, meteorologist for weathermodels.com.

Other areas throughout the region reported flooded and impassable roads, downed trees and power lines and power outages of more than 125,000 customers. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the authorities in New Bern said on Twitter. She was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited help.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ..." "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.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs and were left her shaken. Local media said she had suffered a heart attack.

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