Hurricane Florence, now a tropical storm, is tearing through the Carolinas, bringing heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding.
The storm has already left at least 12 people dead and knocked out power for more than a million residents. As of Saturday evening, Florence was moving west at 2 mph, with winds at a speed of 45 mph.
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.
“The rainfall is epic and will continue to be,” Cooper said. “We just don’t want people to think this is over, because it’s not. It’s not anywhere.”
Cooper warned: “Don’t drive through water, no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house. Roads are closed in many places and more are closing even as we speak.”
The storm has killed at least 12 people in North Carolina. Authorities expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
A mother and baby died when a tree crashed into their home, the Wilmington Police Department said on Twitter Friday afternoon. A 78-year-old man was killed while trying to connect extension cords outside in the rain, ABC News reported, citing Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail.
Another man was blown away by strong winds while outside checking on his dogs. The man’s family found his body Friday morning, according to Dail.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh, North Carolina, also confirmed Saturday that an 81-year-old man in Wayne County fell and fatally struck his head while packing to evacuate the previous day, according to the Associated Press.
The office also said a husband and wife died in a house fire on Friday in Cumberland County.
President Donald Trump tweeted out condolences to the families of the dead on Saturday, mistakenly saying there were only five deaths after authorities had already raised the toll.
“Five deaths have been recorded thus far with regard to hurricane Florence! Deepest sympathies and warmth go out to the families and friends of the victims. May God be with them!” Trump tweeted.
The storm was also a factor in the death of a woman who suffered a heart attack since emergency crews couldn’t reach her due to a fallen tree, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
The center of the storm is hovering over eastern South Carolina, after making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday.
But the wind is not the main threat to people and property from the storm; it’s the storm surge and rainfall, which combined have caused serious flooding in the low-lying coastal regions of the Carolinas.
“The flood danger from storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall 24 hrs ago,” North Carolina Emergency Management said on Twitter. “We face walls of water. More ppl now face a threat than when the storm was offshore. Flood waters are rising, & if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking life.”
In total, Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain over North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maryland before the storm is over. That’s enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay or to cover the state of Texas in 4 inches.
And the deluge is not even close to over — parts of North Carolina are set to receive another 15 inches of rain in the coming days, according to The National Weather Service. That means the storm could easily drop 40 inches of rain in some spots.
Read more:How hurricanes like Florence form
As of Saturday morning, the storm had dumped over 30 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. Swansboro, a town near North Carolina’s coast, received 30.58 inches of rainfall as of Saturday morning, setting a record for tropical storm-associated rainfall in the state, meteorologist David Roth said.
Over 100 people remain trapped in New Bern, a town on the Neuse River which has been hit hard by rain and flooding. “Nobody expected this,” a rescued resident, Tom Ballance, told The Weather Channel. “We were fools.”
According to Gov. Cooper, rescue operations are underway across the state. Here’s the rundown:
- Three medical centers have been set up in North Carolina.
- 23 aviation rescues, and counting.
- Authorities have set up 89 emergency operation centers throughout the state.
- 60 primary roads have been closes, with more closures expected.
Dana Varinsky and Michelle Mark contributed reporting.
This post will be updated.
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