The National Weather Service says, “Florence will continue to weaken while it accelerates northeastward across the Mid-Atlantic and New England through Tuesday. Heavy rainfall remains possible in the Northeast states. In the wake of Florence, prolific river flooding will remain a long-term concern in parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia” . Nearly 36 inches of rain has fallen over Elizabethtown, North Carolina, reports CBS Raleigh affiliate WNCN-TV.
With one of North Carolina’s largest cities, Wilmington, still mostly cut off by floodwaters from what was Hurricane Florence, officials prepared to begin distributing food, water, and tarps to residents as yet more people were rescued from submerged inland neighborhoods.
Workers were to begin handing out supplies to stranded residents in the city of 120,000 people Tuesday morning, county officials say.
One road was opened into Wilmington at least briefly, officials said, and items have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters, which also have been used to pluck hundreds of harried people from atop homes and other structures.
The rain finally stopped and the sun peeked through, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that dangerously high water would persist for days. He urged residents who were evacuated from the hardest-hit areas to stay away because of closed roads and catastrophic flooding that submerged entire communities.
“There’s too much going on,” he told a news conference.
Crews have conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where Wilmington is located. More than 60 percent of homes and businesses were without power, authorities said. Roads are being cleared and the landfill is open to accept storm refuse.
Mayor Bill Saffo said he was working with the governor’s office to get more fuel into Wilmington. “At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city,” he said.
Compounding problems, downed power lines, and broken trees crisscrossed many roads in Wilmington three days after Florence made landfall. The smell of broken pine trees wafted through damaged neighborhoods.
Homes vs. highway?
Floodwaters from recent hurricanes Floyd and Matthew came close to entering Joe Holmes’ house in South Carolina, but he dodged those bullets. Now, with Florence, he doesn’t feel so lucky. He worries the Waccamaw River will make its way into his Conway home because the state wants to save the main highway into Myrtle Beach, a more densely populated city and tourist destination, from going underwater. Officials insist they must keep the road open, or hundreds of thousands of people would be isolated. So the state is building a higher wall – in the form of the second level of concrete highway barriers on top of the sides of 1.5 miles of bridges and causeways, sealing them with plastic sheets weighed down with sandbags and rebar – in its last stand on U.S. Highway 501. Skeptical Conway residents fear this will push water into their neighborhoods, but officials say it won’t affect any areas that weren’t already doomed to flood – at least not in the models they’ve run. The Waccamaw River – which winds through Conway – was already in a major flood at just over 15 feet Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The city had received 16 inches of rain from Florence’s slow march inland, and homes were already threatened. By Friday afternoon, the river should top the record of 17.9 feet, set just two years ago in flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
And it won’t stop there. By Saturday, the river should be at 18.7 feet. Conway officials say they’ve been told to expect the river to rise up to an additional 2 feet after that, which would flood nearly 1,000 homes.
Death toll rises to 32
CBS News has confirmed 32 deaths are being attributed to the storm as of Monday evening: Twenty-five in North Carolina, 6 in South Carolina and 1 in Virginia.
Among the dead were Lesha Murphy Johnson, 41, and her 7-month-old son, who died when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Two other children who were killed were Kaiden Lee-Welch, who officials say was swept away in rushing waters from Richardson Creek in Union County, North Carolina, and Kade Gills, 3 months, who officials said died when a tree fell on a mobile home in Dallas, North Carolina.
“Cajun Navy” volunteers help evacuate North Carolina nursing home, residents
A group of volunteers all too familiar with devastating flooding have gone to North Carolina to help in the aftermath of Florence. Cajun Navy Relief and Rescue is a non-profit group of volunteers from across the country. The group was created after flooding hit southern Louisiana in 2016.
CBS News was with the team in Lumberton as they evacuated 40 people from Highland Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Many of the residents were bedridden.
“Yeah, we are risking our lives, but this is worth it,” said Chris Russell, one of the volunteers.
It took five hours to rescue the residents and deliver them to area hospitals.
“I think what we were able to accomplish tonight, was to give these people some dignity, holding their hand, asking them if they would like to somebody to pray with them,” said Allen Lenard, another volunteer. “As much as I believe were a blessing to those people, I know as a matter of fact, that they were a blessing to me tonight.”
The city has a history of flooding. Two years ago, Hurricane Matthew dumped 20 inches of rain on Lumberton.
Dramatic rescues have become a common sight after storms across the country. Last year, CBS News saw volunteers go out in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Other “Cajun Navy” volunteers became famous for helping to rescue people trapped by floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The makeshift flotilla is credited with rescuing more than 10,000 people from flooded homes and rooftops.
Florence, which made landfall as a hurricane, is blamed for at least 24 deaths. About 500,000 homes and businesses are still without power in North and South Carolina. Since the storm continues to cause heavy rains, flash flooding is still a concern over the Carolinas.
Manure pits at hog farms fail, spill pollution
North Carolina environmental regulators say several open-air manure pits at hog farms have failed and are spilling pollution. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan said Monday that the earthen dam at one hog lagoon in Duplin County had been breached.
There were also seven reports of lagoon levels going over their tops or being inundated in Jones and Pender counties. Regan said state investigators will visit the sites as conditions allow.
The large pits at hog farms hold feces and urine from the animals to be sprayed on nearby fields. The Associated Press published photos of a hog farm outside Trenton on Sunday where a waste pit was completely submerged under floodwaters. N.C. Pork Council, an industry trade group, later denied there had been any reports of spills.
Price-gouging complaints hit North Carolina on heels of Florence
North Carolina’s top law enforcement official is looking into hundreds of complaints alleging price-gouging in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
Attorney General Josh Stein has received about 500 complaints so far alleging price-gouging for essentials like gas and water, his office said Monday. Most of them were in the eastern part of the state, and investigations of some gas stations have already begun.
About 20 percent of gas stations in the state are without gasoline as of Monday morning, GasBuddy reported, while 10 percent are without power. In South Carolina, 9 percent of stations were without gas. Other stations have extensive lines of cars waiting to fill up, according to reports on social media.
However, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said the popular app has not received any reports of gouging. “To date, we have not received a single photo of receipts or signs showing far above average prices,” he said.
Preparation for Hurricane Florence drove up gas prices by 5 cents a gallon in South Carolina, 3 cents in North Carolina and 1 cent in Virginia, according to AAA. But they have remained relatively stable, and the statewide prices for South Carolina and Virginia even today put them among the 10 cheapest states for gas.
“The situation will likely take time to improve but the good news is that fuel supply has not stopped flowing,” GasBuddy analysts said in a note.
In the last 36 hours, CBS News has seen hundreds of rescues, evacuations and road closings up and down the swollen Lumber River. Pembroke police rescue commander Matthew Locklear said an ambulance flooded and they had to “evacuate ourselves.”
“This a monumental disaster for our state,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “In many parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate.”
Florence transitions to a post-tropical cyclone
Forecasters said Florence has transitioned into a post-tropical cyclone that still carries heavy rains and gusty winds. Florence has become an increasingly elongated low-pressure area that’s still producing heavy rain over parts of the Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
By 5 p.m. Monday, the system had top sustained winds of 25 mph. It was centered about 85 miles west-southwest of Morgantown, West Virginia, and moving east-northeast at 14 mph.
Forecasters said catastrophic flooding continued Monday in the Carolinas, and flash flooding and tornado risks were expected as far north as Pennsylvania.
60 children evacuated from N.C. group home
About 60 children in state custody along the coast of North Carolina have been evacuated to a YMCA conference center in the western mountains.
The Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina chose to evacuate its residential center in Lake Waccamaw on Wednesday. They had hoped to return on Monday, but their facility is about 40 miles west of Wilmington and has been hit with heavy flooding, damaging a few buildings. Vice President Tom Huggins said they hope to return on Thursday.
Chaplin Joe Kennedy said most of the children range in age from 13 to 18.
He says most of the children are from the flat, coastal regions of North Carolina and had never seen mountains before. A few of them went on hikes and have helped clean the trails of debris from the storm.
S.C. governor watches rescue mission
A mission to observe flooding in northeastern South Carolina has turned into a rescue mission after Gov. Henry McMaster spotted a pair stranded on a flooded vehicle.
McMaster was touring portions of Chesterfield County in a National Guard helicopter on Monday when he spotted two people lying down on a vehicle nearly completely submerged in rushing floodwaters. Sheriff Jay Brooks radioed to the ground to dispatch a rescue crew.
A few moments later, McMaster asked Guardsmen to land the chopper to observe the rescue. On the ground, he watched as the two people safely got into a rescue boat and flashed him a thumbs up.
McMaster says officials in this area have told him local water sources in this area are nearly 10 inches (25 centimeters) higher than normal. Officials expect as much as a foot more as river basins absorb more water flowing into the state from North Carolina following Florence’s torrential rains.
2nd tornado touches down in Virginia
A tornado has touched down just outside of Richmond, Virginia — at least the second tornado to hit the state as the remnants of Hurricane Florence passes through. The National Weather
Service tweeted that a confirmed tornado was on the ground in Chesterfield County Monday afternoon. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The county school system said all students in county schools were sheltered in place.
vThe Virginia Department of Emergency Management said earlier that a tornado damaged three properties in Mecklenburg County, which is near the border with North Carolina.
Large swaths of the state have been under flash-flood and tornado watches and warnings as Florence moves north through the state.
Official warn drivers not to use navigation apps
Navigation apps like Waze are trying to help motorists avoid hurricane flooding, but local authorities say people shouldn’t rely on them. Some smartphone map directions in recent days have sent people in North Carolina onto flooded roads and others closed to traffic.
Google-owned Waze said Monday it’s worked with local governments and its own community of volunteer map editors to mark closures of more than 1,300 roads in North Carolina and hundreds more in South Carolina and Virginia.
But the North Carolina Department of Transportation warned in a Twitter post on Sunday night that Waze and other travel apps are unable to keep up with the Florence-caused road closings. The agency says “it is not safe now to trust them with your life.”
The firm says Florence has caused billions in damage
An economic consulting firm says Hurricane Florence may result in between $17 billion and $22 billion in lost economic output and property damage. That would put Florence in the Top 10 of costliest hurricanes to hit the U.S.
Economists at Moody’s Analytics caution that this estimate could be revised significantly higher as more information comes in on the extent of inland flooding.
The consulting firm says it is putting property losses at between $16 billion and $20 billion and lost economic output at between $1 billion and $2 billion. The total cost of hurricanes has been rising because of increased construction in coastal areas and more severe flooding associated with rising sea levels.
Trump says officials won’t rest until “job is done”
President Trump says his administration “will not rest” until the “job is done” in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Mr. Trump is offering his thoughts to the people of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and everyone else who has been affected by the storm.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Trump said 20,000 federal personnel have been deployed. He said they are “putting their lives on the line.”
Florence is being blamed for at least 20 deaths in North Carolina and South Carolina. The storm has left about 500,000 customers without power, most of them in North Carolina.
N.C. school systems apologize for scheduling classes
Two North Carolina school systems are apologizing for scheduling classes after flooding made some roads impassable and one school was caught in a ditch near a flooded road. The Durham County and Orange County school systems issued the apology Monday, the News & Observer reports.
In Durham County, school officials said that while they made the best decision they could, they were sorry for “the difficulties that came from our decision to open school.”
Orange County Schools also apologized on its Facebook page after students were forced to wait for the bus in the rain, standing beside flooded roads. The statement said officials tried to make a decision to keep schools open using the best information it had at the time. “We got it wrong, and we apologize for that.”
Parents voiced their concerns on social media, spurred by a video which showed a bus plowing through floodwaters. Emergency officials were dispatched after a report that a school bus headed to an elementary school was caught on a flooded road in Durham.
Orange County school officials said they are investigating social media video that showed one of its school buses driving through a flooded area, CBS Raleigh affiliate WNCN reports. “That is our bus, and we are investigating the matter,” said Seth Stephens, an Orange County Schools spokesman.
It is unclear if there were students on the bus at the time.
Waffle House sending in reinforcements
Workers with the restaurant chain Waffle House are being brought in from around the country to help keep the company’s locations up and running in areas affected by Florence. Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer was picking up a team at the Wilmington, North Carolina, airport on Monday.
About 150 workers were brought in Monday as part of the company’s emergency response team, Ehmer t0ld the Associated Press. He said it’s part of the company’s culture to never close. The extra hands were partly needed because some local workers had to evacuate.
The chain is so well known for staying open no matter what that former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Craig Fugate created the so-called “Waffle House Index.” Fugate used the restaurants as a benchmark for how quickly local communities could rebind from hurricanes. Under the index, a closed Waffle House was a bad sign.
Ehmer said Waffle House is having to fly some food into Wilmington, which has been cut off from road access by Florence’s floodwaters.
Residents wait outside a Waffle House restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 1-year-old boy swept away by floodwaters in N.C.
Authorities have recovered the body of a 1-year-old who was swept away by Florence’s floodwaters in Union County, North Carolina.
The county sheriff’s office said a woman and her child were on their way to visit relatives when she drove past barricades on highway 218 in northern Union County. The woman later told authorities someone had pushed the barricades to the side, making her think it was alright to go through.
The woman’s car was swept off the road by the floodwaters, pinning it against a group of trees. She was able to free 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch from his car seat and escape. But the waters were deep, and police said the woman lost her grip and her son was swept away.