Stay off the roads until Hurricane Michael’s winds and rain pass, Cooper says

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River and street flooding, fallen trees and the threat of tornadoes began spreading into central North Carolina on Thursday, prompting the state’s governor to urge people to avoid travel until Tropical Storm Michael clears the region tonight or tomorrow.

Gov. Roy Cooper in a morning briefing with reporters emphasized that the former hurricane remains a dangerous storm, even though most of its destructive power has been spent in Florida, Georgia and Arkansas.

“The ragged but still raging remains of Hurricane Michael have now come to North Carolina,” Cooper said. “The storm has already begun to lash our battered state with strong winds and heavy rain. … Travel can be treacherous right now. You should stay off the roads if you can.”

There have been an unknown number of water rescues Thursday morning in the mountain counties of Henderson and McDowell, according to Division of Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.

An additional 16 roads have been closed, in addition to those closed by Hurricane Florence, due to downed trees and standing water, he said.

Much of the state is under flash flood or tornado watches or warnings, he said. More than 6 inches of rain has fallen in the western part of the state, Cooper said.

Major flooding is expected on the Haw River and moderate flooding on the Tar and Rocky rivers on Thursday and Friday.

There are already thousands of power outages in the state, and crews have begun to repair them.