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As Hurricane Florence, now a tropical storm, crawls through the Carolinas, our reporters and photojournalists are on the coast. Their Friday reports from the coast are here.
Raleigh: Interstate drivers asked to avoid N.C.
5 p.m. State officials are asking interstate travelers not to drive through North Carolina.
A stretch of Interstate 95 was closed earlier Saturday and state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said more sections may close before flooding subsides.
The number of primary roads closed Saturday increased from 60 to 100 in a few hours, Trogdon said.
“It has been increasingly difficult to find bypass routes for interstate traffic,” he said.
All drivers should stay off roads south of U.S. 64 and east of interstates 73 and 74, Trogdon said.
— LYNN BONNER
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill: Help is on the way
2:15 p.m. Nearly 30 firefighters with the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill fire departments have orders to help with the rescue operations in the coastal communities impacted by Hurricane Florence. They’re expected to leave sometime Saturday afternoon and are part of the North Carolina Task Force 8/Urban Search and Rescue Team.
There are also 18 Raleigh firefighters who specialize in structural collapse rescues set to leave Saturday night or Sunday morning. And four members of Raleigh Fire’s helicopter rescue team will head out to coastal areas on Monday.
— ANNA JOHNSON
Bolivia, N.C.: ‘You saved my dog’s life’
1:35 p.m. Power went out at Tabitha Floyd’s home in Bolivia on Friday morning, but it didn’t bother her.
“As long as my dogs are all right, I’m fine,” she told her friends who called to check on her.
Then, Saturday morning, her 7-year-old pit bull, Snoop — never sick a day in his life — lay nearly motionless on the floor.
“His tongue and his gums were pure white,” she said.
From caring for an anemic goat on her friend Louie Lewis’ farm, where she works, Floyd knew Snoop needed some vitamin B. She didn’t have any at her house, but she knew there was some at Lewis’ farm.
Trouble was, by mid-day Saturday, the Lockwood Folly River was rippling across N.C. 211 South between her house and Lewis’ farm.
Lewis, who turned 84 Saturday, wasn’t scared of more than two feet of water. He drove a tractor with oversized wheels across the breach and delivered the medicine into Floyd’s hands. She looked like she might cry.
She hugged Lewis’s neck and thanked him.
“You saved my dog’s life,” she told him.’
“Well, we’ll try,” he said.
— MARTHA QUILLIN
Oak Island, N.C.: Waiting and watching
12:40 p.m. A 24-hour curfew is in place at Oak Island, where Steve Sanders decided to ride out the storm. Sanders, who manages the Ocean Crest Pier on the island, said he went out on Friday in between squalls and before the curfew went into effect to see what kind of damage the storm had done so far.
“I saw a lot of siding off of houses, and some shingles, that kind of thing,” Sanders said. “There was eight or 10 inches of water across the road where it’s low, but it always flood there. This is about what we always see with a big storm.”
Sanders said when he saw it Friday, the pier looked fine, and on Saturday he periodically checked the web cam at oceancrestpiernc.com, and everything looked ok.
But the forecast is for continued rain and wind through Sunday.
“Give us another 24 hours of this, and see how it looks,” Sanders said. “That’s what I’m worried about.”
On the mainland, the mercurial storm continued to tease residents mid-day Saturday. Skies would darken and the rain would fall so hard, utility trucks on the road faced near-whiteout conditions. Then it would lighten and the rain would taper, though never quite stop.
Trees continued to drop onto highways; N.C. 211 in Brunswick County was littered with downed pines, which crews were pushing aside as quickly as possible with large front-end loaders.
— MARTHA QUILLIN
Wilmington, N.C.: Finally, a grocery store
11:30 a.m. A crowd bordering on a mob scene formed in Wilmington Saturday as the first grocery store opened in four days, drawing 500 storm-soaked residents to push through the doors.
After two days in darkness, the city saw electricity return to a two-block grid on College Avenue. Hurricane Florence victims with Internet access saw the grocery’s notice go up on Facebook. But most saw the line stretching around the side of the store and simply joined it.
As doors opened at 10 a.m., Harris Teeter employees loudly warned shoppers elbowing each other at the door to be civil, and that Wilmington police had nothing better to do than haul unruly people out of the store.
— JOSH SHAFFER
New Bern, N.C..: A kitten, a photo, a flood
10 a.m. Both were wet. Both wore tired expressions.
A photo of Robert Simmons Jr. and his kitten has gone viral — a moment that seemed to capture how thousands like Simmons are feeling as the storm slogs through the area, waters continue to rise, threatening houses and livelihoods.
Simmons recounted his story on Friday while a kitten peered through the top of his rain jacket. Simmons had taken the animal with him on the boat. The kitten clung to Simmons, as if a newborn clinging to his mother, and while Simmons spoke, the kitten mewed.
“We done been through Bertha, Fran, Irene, Matthew,” he said on Friday afternoon, sitting in the small boat and ticking off the names of hurricanes that had come through his part of eastern North Carolina. “And this is the worst it’s ever been, in this part right here.”
— ANDREW CARTER
Myrtle Beach, S.C.: Alligator in the neighborhood
6 a.m. Wind and rain weren’t the only things Hurricane Florence left on the streets of the Grand Strand.
Friday afternoon an alligator was spotted in the Osprey Cove neighborhood off of S.C. 707 and filmed by resident Tracie Byrd.
“Well, hurricane update,” she says in the video. “We have an alligator. Run gator, run!; Run from Florence.”
The gator is seen crossing the road and running into a ditch as the effects from Hurricane Florence are felt in the area. Gators aren’t the only animals gaining attention during the storm.
The Myrtle Beach Police Department posted a video on their Facebook page showing officers corralling ducks back into an enclosure after they escaped during the storm.
— MEGAN TOMASIC