Much of North Carolina returned to normal on Wednesday, even as broad swaths of the state remained inundated and imperiled by floods spurred by Florence.
President Donald Trump flew in to the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock in coastal Craven County to begin a tour of storm damage and meet with state and local officials. Accompanying him on the trip aboard Air Force One were the state’s two U.S. senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.
Gov. Roy Cooper, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials joined Trump at a public briefing from the air station.
“Our state took a gut punch, Mr. President, and our people are still reeling,” Cooper said. “This one has been epic. It has been disastrous, and it has been widespread. It is a storm like no other.”
“We will be there 100 percent,” Trump said. “We’re getting all teed up for a lot of money coming down to the area.”
U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, whose district includes much of the storm-damaged parts of the state, was also at the briefing and planned to join Trump on his tour. The president also was scheduled to travel to South Carolina.
Cooper is expected to give his daily update later Wednesday afternoon.
The governor said the death toll in North Carolina was now at 27.
Local authorities were keeping an eye on rivers that were expected to crest throughout the day Tuesday, in some cases exceeding the levels of Hurricane Matthew.
A U.S. Geological Survey river gauge at Lillington showed the river was beginning to fall Wednesday morning. A gauge at Fayetteville showed the river leveling off there.
Many communities and neighborhoods remained flooded, and curfews invoked by a number of local officials were still in affect Wednesday.
More roads into and out of Wilmington were opened after the port city was cut off from all land access in the wake of the hurricane’s landfall Saturday.
Amtrak is also starting to get back to normal.
The Piedmont and Carolinian trains began operating again between Raleigh and Charlotte on Tuesday. The trains had not run since last Thursday, just before the storm reached North Carolina. Carolinian service between Raleigh and New York City is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Crescent, which serves Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury and Charlotte, is also scheduled to resume normal operations Wednesday.
The other long-distance trains that pass through the state, including the Silver Star and Silver Meteor between New York and Miami, Fla., have been canceled through at least Thursday.
Elsewhere, agricultural interests, Duke Energy and environmentalists were assessing the extent of damage to the state’s hog lagoons, as well as sewage spills and livestock deaths.
The number of hogs and poultry killed in Hurricane Florence flooding is already double the casualties from Matthew in 2016, and the losses are expected to mount this week as new information comes in from farmers as they gain access to their properties.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Tuesday that so far 3.4 million chickens and turkeys have been killed by Florence, and 5,500 hogs have perished since the storm deluged the state.
Duke Energy reported Wednesday it had restored power to 1.5 million people and had 150,000 customers awaiting for power.
Staff writers Ron Gallagher, Richard Stradling and John Murawski