Deadly storm Florence has drenched North Carolina with yet more downpours, cutting off the city of Wilmington, and threatening worse flooding as rivers fill to bursting point.
The death toll rose to at least 14 from Florence, which crashed into the state as a hurricane on Friday, bringing record rainfall.
It had weakened to a tropical depression by Sunday, but was forecast to drop another 13 to 25cm of rain in North Carolina, bringing rainfall totals in some inland areas to 40 to 50cm and over 76cm closer to the coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The storm has never been more dangerous than it is now,” North Carolina’s emergency management office said on Twitter, quoting Governor Roy Cooper. “Many rivers are still rising, and are not expected to crest until later today or tomorrow.”
More than 900 people were rescued from rising floodwaters and 15,000 remained in shelters in the state, Cooper told a news conference on Sunday.
At least 10 people have died so far in the storm in North Carolina, including a mother and child killed by a falling tree, state officials said. Four people died in South Carolina, including a woman whose car hit a fallen tree.
People who evacuated were eager to return home but officials urged them to stay away.
“Our roads are flooded, there is no access into Wilmington,” New Hanover County Commission chairman Woody White told a news conference. “We want you home but you can’t come yet.”
Fresh evacuations were ordered further inland as rivers crested and spilled out of their banks.
In Fayetteville, a North Carolina city of about 210,000 people about 145km from the ocean, authorities told thousands of residents near the Cape Fear River and Little River to get out of their homes by Sunday afternoon because of the flood risk.
“The worst is yet to come,” Mayor Mitch Colvin told a news conference on Saturday.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry said it was too early to estimate how many people in the state would be made homeless by the storm.
“Right now, we are thinking that there will tens of thousands of homes that are going to be damaged,” he said.
About 756,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina and surrounding states, down from a peak of nearly a million.
Florence set a record in the state for rain from a hurricane, dumping 86cm in Swansboro, North Carolina.
North Carolina officials warned motorists not to drive on roads in a large area because of hazardous conditions in the southeast of the state. Swelling rivers and creeks threatened dams and bridges.
The flooding could taint waterways with murky coal ash. But so far officials said the state’s many lagoons of toxic hog waste had withstood the storm.
The White House said President Donald Trump approved making federal funding available in some affected counties. Trump, who plans to visit the region this week, tweeted his condolences to the families and friends of those who died.
© RAW 2018