- Severe weather impact lingers as cooler temperatures set to arrive
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- Severe weather moves on, but patches of rain persist in central NC
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- National Hurricane Preparedness Week kicks off
As remnants of Florence continued to batter the Carolinas Sunday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that “the risk to life is rising with the angry waters.”
Rivers continued to rise as much of eastern North Carolina remained flooded and the danger of flash floods spread throughout the state. The National Weather Service warned of possible tornadoes in the east as well as landslides in the mountains.
Access to Wilmington was completely cut off by flood waters, officials said.
Downgraded Sunday to a tropical depression, former Hurricane Florence was blamed for at least 10 deaths in North Carolina. As many as 15,000 people remained stranded in more than 150 emergency shelters, Cooper told reporters at noon.
More than 712,000 customers remained without power in the Carolinas at noon. That was down from more than 1 million on Saturday as emergency crews worked around the clock. Those without power included almost 26,000 Duke Energy customers in Mecklenburg County and nearly 2,800 Duke Energy Progress customers in Wake County.
Flooding closed more than 170 roads in North Carolina, including portions of Interstates 95 and 40.
In Wilmington, an emergency official told reporters there was no longer any way in or out of the county by land. “You can’t come yet. Please stay where you are,” Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover county commissioners, told reporters.
In Charlotte, there were closed roads and downed trees throughout the city, and Duke Energy reported that water could spill out of several of its lakes above and below Charlotte starting as early as Monday evening. The National Weather Service forecast up to 6 inches of rain in the area during the day and through Sunday night, with wind gusts as high as 30 mph.
The Triangle was spared the heaviest rain. According to the News & Observer, parts of Pittsboro received nearly 2 inches between midday Saturday and noon Sunday. Amounts in Wake County varied from half an inch to 1.72 inches in Holly Springs. A little more than an inch fell in Chapel Hill.
As of 11 a.m. Sunday, 5,706 Duke Energy customers were without power in Johnston County. Outages were fewer in Durham (906) and Orange (283).
And there was no major flooding on any of the Triangle’s most prone waterways — Crabtree, Marsh, Swift and Walnut creeks — the National Weather Service reported Sunday morning.
The storm’s sustained winds had fallen to 35 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported at 11 a.m. The storm itself was moving north-northwest at 10 mph and expected to turn east in the coming days through Pennsylvania and up to New England.
‘I was scared’
In eastern North Carolina, which took the brunt of the storm, flooding continued as at least four rivers, including the Neuse and Cape Fear, reached flood stage. Some people stayed; others left.
Vickie Mariniello was one who stayed.
She has seen her share of hurricanes and other natural disasters after living in Fayetteville off and on for 64 years, she said.
“When I was a baby, my mother passed me through a window during the evacuation of Hurricane Hazel in 1954,” Mariniello said.
On Saturday, she stood on the porch of her apartment in the Tartan Place neighborhood off of Ramsay Street, hand to her face, watching the incessant rain come down, unsure if she should leave. Mariniello lives less than a mile from the Cape Fear river, which on Saturday morning reached its minor flood stage of 35 feet. Police came through Mariniello’s neighborhood on Friday.
“They scared all of us,” she said. “They came through with their speakers and told everyone that if they don’t leave, no one will come back for you. No one will be able to rescue you.”
As of Sunday afternoon, Mariniello said she had no plans to evacuate. “A lot of people are staying,” she said.
Not Auriel Tinsley.
The resident of Hope Mill, near Fayetteville, scooped up her three small children — ages 5, 3 and 1 — and got on a Greyhound bus bound for Charlotte on Thursday.
“I was just running from the storm,” Tinsley, 26, who works at Food Lion, said Sunday. “I wanted to get farther away (from the hurricane). I was scared.”
She has been at the Red Cross shelter at West Mecklenburg High School since Friday morning with her kids and her grandmother, who’s 66. And she plans to stay put until the storm has moved on.
“I’m just riding a wave,” she said.
Meanwhile in Lumberton, Shakeia Bethea got a knock on her door around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. She was told to get out of her mobile home right away.
“They said the levee broke,” Bethea told the News & Observer. She had been in the same home in October 2016, when Hurricane Matthew flooded Lumberton, forcing thousands of people from their homes.
One emergency responder in Fayetteville told WRAL-TV that officials believe flood waters will be up to 4 feet above the level seen in Matthew.
‘Water has nowhere to go
Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general, warned people of unscrupulous businesses Sunday.
“Unfortunately there are some out there (who want) to take advantage of a natural disaster to make a quick buck,” he told reporters in a noon press conference.
Stein said the state has put a price gouging law in effect. He also warned would-be car buyers to beware of flood-damaged vehicles in the days and weeks after the storm.
“Florence has brought hardship and despair,” he said. “Let’s make sure that hardship is not compounded by scam artists.”
Meanwhile, in Marion County, S.C., more than 400 people were staying in three shelters, county administrator Tim Harper told The State.
The county had conducted about 100 swiftwater rescues, he said. The storm has dumped about 13.3 inches of rain so far on Marion County – the most in the state, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division – and county officials expect another 5 to 10 inches, Harper said.
“It has been raining nonstop,” Harper said. “The water has nowhere to go.”
Abbie Bennett and Martha Quillin of the News & Observer, Tim Funk of the Charlotte Observer and Avery Wilks of The State newspaper contributed.
Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill