Florence leaves tornadoes, flooding, road closures, deaths across North Carolina

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The powerful, sprawling storm called Florence continued its assault on North Carolina even as it headed northward out of the state Monday morning, triggering tornadoes, continuing to flood communities and submerging interstate highways. The confirmed death toll in North Carolina is 11, and the storm has taken at least 17 lives overall.

Nerves remained on edge as the day began with the National Weather Service issuing tornado warnings throughout the central part of the state.

At 7:30 a.m., the National Weather Service issued issued a tornado warning for Durham County and eastern Orange County. But those were discontinued before 8 a.m.

Shortly before 6 a.m., Wayne County officials also reported a tornado had damaged trees in an area north of Goldsboro.

A confirmed tornado was reported over Elm City, about 8 miles southwest of Rocky Mount, about 7 a.m. The weather service said Wilson County emergency officials reported trees and power lines down in the Elm City area and some damaged buildings.

In Orange County, about seven people in Camelot Village near Bolin Creek voluntarily evacuated about 12:30 a.m. Monday after firefighters visited the community and warned of the rising creek water, said Ran Northam, a Chapel Hill police spokesman. Firefighters were back on the scene about 7:30 a.m.

While some at Camelot Village did evacuate late last week, Northam said, it appeared they returned after they thought the threat had passed.

In addition, Umstead Drive in Chapel Hill was closed because of flooding, Northam said.

“Any low-lying areas, we are having issues,” he said. “I am seeing rates of 3 and half inches (of rising water) per hour.”

In Durham, police said in a Twitter post that flooding had closed Interstate 85 near Cole Mill Road and sections of Fayetteville Street and East Weaver Street. Additional reports of street flooding were coming in Monday morning.

Chatham County reported that numerous roads were impassible because of flooding Monday morning.

To the west, emergency workers in Union County resumed the search for Kaiden Lee-Welch, a 1-year-old boy swept away in rushing water Sunday after his mother’s car became trapped in the flooding. She was able to free him from a carseat but lost her grip on him in the torrent.

Late Sunday and early Monday, Randolph County emergency officials said crews had rescued people from three vehicles trapped by flood waters, and several people were helped out of flooded homes.

The effects in the Triangle of what is now tropical storm Florence are otherwise unremarkable, with traces of sunshine for the first time in several days. There is a forecast of a cloudy day with periods of sun breaking through, WTVD reported. There will be showers and thunderstorms across the region, but the steady rain is finally subsiding, the station reported.

Lingering humidity will slow the drying-out process for days to come, WTVD forecast. By Wednesday and lasting into Saturday, the Triangle should be free of rain.

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Access to Wilmington was cut off to all access on land on Sunday due to record flooding. Miles of Interstate 40 were underwater, and authorities advised interstate travelers to avoid North Carolina roads.

Staff writers Ron Gallagher, Tammy Grubb and Virginia Bridges contributed.