State officials: Travel isn’t safe yet as Florence flooding continues

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Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials on Friday continued to warn people to be cautious on roads and not to travel to coastal areas affected by Tropical Storm Florence. Flooding is expected to continue through next week, officials said, and in some places longer.

“The opening and closing of roads are changing as the flooding continues,” Cooper said at his press briefing at the emergency operations center in west Raleigh. “I can’t stress enough, don’t drive around barricades. Your car is not enough to protect you from dangerous flood waters, even if it only seems like a few inches.”

People should not drive south of U.S. 70 and east of U.S. 1 in North Carolina, he said.

As of Friday morning, there were more than 600 road closures across the state, he said.

Interstates within 12 locations around the state are experiencing high water and flooding, primarily on Interstate 40 and Interstate 95, Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said. A total of 141 roads are under high water, he said, up slightly from Thursday. Those include about 40 U.S. routes and 89 primary roads.

Cooper also asked that some coastal residents not try to drive home just yet.

“I know that is a big request with people wondering what is left of their homes, but with power still out in many places and new roads flooding every hour, we need to keep the few routes we have clear for emergency vehicles,” Cooper said.

Water rescues in Bladen County

About 100 people had to be evacuated by boat and air late Thursday night and early Friday morning after the town of Kelly in Bladen County flooded when the Cape Fear River breached the levy there, Cooper said.

“The North Carolina National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard flying with night vision goggles heroically saved lives,” he said.

First responders have executed about 5,000 rescues, Cooper said, more than twice the number that occurred during Hurricane Matthew.

About 56,000 people are without power, Cooper said, and 3,700 people remain in shelters.

The number of non-functioning cell towers is down to single digits, he said.

The state is requesting the federal government cover 100 percent of its disaster response costs for the first 30 days of this effort instead of the usual 75 percent, he said.

Officials don’t yet know the full extent of the damage, he said. The storm has claimed 31 lives in North Carolina.

“After several days of a storm like this, it is important to remember that is more than just a number,” Cooper said.

Major flood areas in NC

Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry, who pointed out that the state was in day 12 of the Hurricane Florence operation, outlined the areas that continue to be impacted by major flooding in eastern portions of the state.

Those areas include Kinston and Barnwell in Lenoir County. “Kinston is still rising,” he said. “Kinston is expected to have flooding peak tomorrow.”

Sprayberry’s updates on other areas included:

  • Hookerton in Greene County is reporting major flood stage. Flooding is expected through Sept. 28.
  • In Jones County, Trenton and Pollocksville are reporting moderate flooding that expected to last through Sept. 27.
  • In Pender County, areas near Burgaw and N.C. 210 are reporting major flood status that is expected to remain through Sept. 28
  • Chinquapin in Duplin County is reporting major flood status with flood waters expected to remain through Sept 23.
  • In Bladen County major flooding is present near the towns of Tar Heel and Kelly, and is expected to continue through Sept. 28
  • Lumberton in Roberson County is reporting major flood status. The water has receded slightly, but the second peak of flooding is expected to occur Sunday reaching about one-half foot lower than the initial peak, Sprayberry said. The flooding is expected to decline there slowly through Oct. 5.
  • In Columbus County, the town of Fair Bluff is reporting major flood status with water starting to decline, but a second peak is also expected.

V irginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges