Florence, the once-powerful hurricane that swept across the Carolinas in recent days, has prompted a widespread emergency across all of North Carolina, from the ocean east to mountain west. Floodwaters are expected to push many rivers to all-time highs and could spur life-threatening landslides as the storm’s remnants move west.
Authorities in North Carolina and South Carolina said Monday that at least 23 deaths have been blamed on the storm, a number that has steadily risen each day as rain has pounded the region and floodwaters have spread throughout both states.
The White House on Monday morning announced that President Donald Trump had approved a disaster declaration for South Carolina on Sunday, opening up federal funding for officials responding to the deluge caused by Florence. Trump similarly declared a disaster in North Carolina on Friday, the day Florence made landfall.
Most of the deaths were confirmed in North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper said that as of Monday morning, 17 people had died as a result of the storm.
“The crisis in North Carolina continues,” Cooper, a Democrat, said at a briefing Monday afternoon. “Catastrophic flooding and tornadoes are still claiming lives and property. For most parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate.”
South Carolina officials said they had confirmed six storm-related deaths there as of Monday afternoon.
North Carolina officials have not released details about all of the deaths linked to the storm, but grim information continued to emerge about the lives lost. On Monday, the Union County sheriff’s office said that 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch died after being swept away by floodwaters.
Sheriff’s office officials think that the child’s mother’s car was swept away after she passed around barricades and drove into rushing water; the mother was able to take the child out of the car seat but he was swept away, officials said.
Other North Carolina cases where authorities have released information include a 41-year-old woman and her 7-month-old son killed Friday in Wilmington when a tree fell on their home; a 78-year-old man in Lenoir County who was electrocuted; a 77-year-old man there who fell and died because of a cardiac issue; and a husband and wife in Cumberland County who died in a house fire. Officials have attributed two deaths in Duplin County to people being on the road during flash flooding, and another in Pender County to a woman who had a heart attack but could not be reached by emergency officials because of debris.
In South Carolina, state officials said the dead included a 61-year-old woman and 63-year-old man killed by carbon monoxide poisoning; a 61-year-old woman in Union County who was driving and struck a tree; and a 23-year-old man in Georgetown County who was killed in a car crash.
“We mourn the loss of each and every life and our hearts go out to their friends and their family,” Cooper said. “We hope there’s not another life lost, but we know that raging rivers are still out there.”
Cooper said first responders have reported rescuing more than 2,600 people during the storm.
“I know people are eager to get back to work and get back to school,” he said. “Many of us are even seeing the sun for the first time in days . . . I urge you, if you don’t have to drive, stay off the road.”In storm-battered North Carolina, authorities said Monday morning that nearly half a million power outages remained while scores of roadways across the state were still closed.
For those seeking refuge at home, power outages are a lingering issue. More than 486,000 power outages were reported by 9:20 a.m., according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Across the state, meanwhile, road after road was rendered impassable by the storm. Transportation officials said a number of state roads, interstates and local avenues were blocked, with nearly 100 such flooded roads in Anson County alone. The North Carolina Department of Transportation also reported that “several” parts of Interstate 95 and Interstate 40 were flooded
In Dillon County, South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border, Ryan Herring, 29, and other family members went to his brother’s home Monday morning to move all of his belongings.
As they loaded cushions and furniture into a trailer, the nearby Little Pee Dee River under a bridge was steadily rising.
“When we got here an hour ago, the water wasn’t even touching the steps,” Herring said.
Down the street from the house, the river had nearly risen to the top of a bridge. A blue mail box and a business across from it were half-submerged. One house is completely underwater, with only the roof visible from above.
Still, residents living on the other side of the street that’s yet to flood said they aren’t evacuating. Taylor Godbolt said she lives on a hill and has stocked up on water and food.
“This is way worse [than Hurricane Matthew], and this river is not supposed to crest until tomorrow,” Godbolt, 25, said. “This bridge is going to wash out,” she added, saying that the bridge is their way to get to the center of town in Dillon.
“We’re going to be kind of stuck here. Everything we have is in Dillon – grocery stores, food sources, gas, everything.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Mark Berman, Allyson Chiu, Katie Zezima