In Carteret County, North Carolina, there were six teams performing rescue operations Saturday but those efforts have been challenged by downed trees and power lines. “Property damage in the area is high. While most homes experienced minor shingle and siding damage, there is an extensive amount of homes with damage from falling trees and high flood waters,” the county government said in a statement.
The National Hurricane Center warned that parts of southern and central South Carolina could get an additional 10 to 20 inches of rain, and that parts of the North Carolina coast south of Cape Hatteras are expected to see storm totals of between 30 and 40 inches of rain.
“This rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the hurricane center said in a 5 p.m. bulletin.
Nearly 200 roads were closed throughout New Hanover County, North Carolina, where Wilmington is located, and Wilmington police were asking residents to stay inside and keep off the roads. “We cannot stress enough how dangerous the road conditions are,” police tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Some residents of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which was feared to suffer huge effects from the then-hurricane, returned on Saturday and officials there said there was relatively minimal damage.
“We were really blessed on this one,” Matt Paulson, a two-decade resident of coastal North Carolina who owns the First Light restaurant in Corolla, told the Associated Press.
But the storm was deadly, with most of those who lost their lives in North Carolina, officials said. A woman and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington; a woman died in Pender County after suffering a medical condition and large trees blocked roads to her home; two people died in Lenoir County; and three people were killed in Duplin County in three separate incidents when the cars they were in were washed away in high water, authorities said.
In South Carolina, a 61-year-old woman died after her car struck a downed tree on a highway in Union County Friday night, according to South Carolina Highway Patrol Capt. Kelley Hughes.
Cooper said Saturday that around 20,000 people were in more than 150 shelters in North Carolina. “To the people who have evacuated: If you are safe, stay put,” he said, and urged people to wait for the storm to pass and for an all-clear from officials before returning.
“This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches,” he said. “Many people who think that the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat.”
Cooper said that “rivers will rise days after the rain has stopped.” In the east, rivers will crest Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he said, and noted that most storm deaths occur from drowning, often in cars, and warned people not to drive across standing or moving water.
Areas with a population of more than 2 million people were under tropical storm warnings Saturday, according to data from the National Weather Service. Areas with more than a half-million population were under storm surge warnings.
In Wilmington, chainsaws were used to clear trees in a neighborhood damaged by Florence Saturday. “I’m worn out and I’m upset,” said, Melissa Blanton, who was taken in along with her husband and two daughters by a neighbor in the Carolina Place neighborhood. “Just waiting to see what happened and also feeling helpless, that you can’t do anything,” she said.
“Everybody’s family here,” said Blanton, who is a native of California who moved here. “So my family in this neighborhood has actually helped me — when I didn’t even ask them to — board things up. Like, a neighbor was on my roof boarding up a hole today.”
Elsewhere in Wilmington, police arrested five people who allegedly broke into and looted a Dollar General store in the city on Saturday, the police department tweeted. Charges were pending, police said.
President Donald Trump on Saturday approved a disaster declaration for North Carolina, which makes federal funding available to those affected. The president tweeted Saturday evening his condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the storm.
New Bern said in a statement Saturday that 455 people were rescued from Florence’s floodwaters, and that all rescues have been completed. The city thanked rescuers and volunteers who they said saved lives.
Moore, who left New Bern and returned Saturday, said that she’s lived in the area her entire life but has never endured a storm like this.
“It’s been one of the worst ones. I’ve been here for years. I never heard of anything like this before,” she said. “It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”