'Relentless rains' continue as Florence almost stalls over Carolinas

CBS News

CBS News

The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm climbed to 11.

Flood waters from the Trent River inundate a park in Pollocksville, North Carolina on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence.

A mother and her infant are dead after a tree fell on their house in Wilmington.

As of 6 a.m., Florence was centered just 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

South Carolina Department of Transportation head Christy Hall said trees are already down in areas of Horry County and citizens should prepare for flooding.

Port Canaveral along Florida's Space Coast had two ships visiting unexpectedly when Hurricane Florence made it impossible to stop in Bermuda.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches (60 centimeters) on the state. The storm is moving slowly at 2 miles per hour, which has contributed to catastrophic flooding. About 400 people have been rescued.

In Fayetteville, a North Carolina city of about 210,000 people about 90 miles inland, authorities told thousands of residents near the Cape Fear River and Little River to get out of their homes because of the flood risk.

"The flood danger from storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall 24 hrs ago", North Carolina Emergency Management said on Twitter.

Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with diminished winds, but it has stalled over the Wilmington region as predicted and will continue drenching the area with historic and catastrophic rain, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. briefing. The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern 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.

Heavy rains and storm surge created destructive flooding of several feet throughout the Carolina coast.


About 10 million people could be affected by the storm, according to a Reuters report.

"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars".

Cooper warned: "Don't drive through water, no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house".

"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added. Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.

Nakisa Glover, a National Climate Justice Fellow at Hip Hop Caucus based in North Carolina, said in a phone interview that while the mandatory evacuation orders might make "logical sense in theory, if you don't have the resources, you can't just leave your home in a lot of cases".

Duke Energy Corp, the area's biggest utility with more than 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages. In the state´s Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.

More than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.

Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.

USA correspondent Cordelia Lynch, who is in New Bern, said: "This community in the weeks and months to come is up against a great deal of flooding".

Almost 814,000 homes in North Carolina and 170,000 in SC are without power. The figure for SC was 170,000.

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