Florence, a onetime hurricane that weakened to a tropical depression dumped up to 100 cm of rain on parts of North Carolina and continued to produce widespread heavy rain, the National Weather Service said.
In towns like Lumberton, which lies just 25 feet (7.6 m) above sea level, even the best preparations cannot protect the entire area, said French, the emergency services manager. “There are some areas that you simply can’t do anything about.”
The storm continued to crawl westward, dumping more than 75 centimetres of rain since Friday, and fears of historic flooding grew. Tens of thousands were evacuated from communities along the state’s steadily rising rivers
About 740,000 homes and businesses remained without power in the Carolinas, and utilities said some could be out for weeks.
Across the Carolinas, officials are sounding the alarm: More communities will flood as rivers collect water from upstream and spill over.
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Numerous roads were closed, and authorities warned of the risk of landslides, tornadoes and flash floods, with dams and bridges in peril as rivers and creeks swelled. As of Saturday, about 676,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in South Carolina.
More than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told The Associated Press.
Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. Roads and intersections on North Carolina’s Outer Banks barrier islands were already inundated with water.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
12,000 North Carolinians staying in shelters after being displaced by the slow-moving storm that is expected to bring powerful storm surges and dozens of inches of rain to the eastern part of the state.
As Hurricane Florence stared down at the Carolina coast, many residents were making last-minute decisions about whether to evacuate or ride the storm out.
Emergency preparations in the region included activating over 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.
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Hurricane Florence Highlights: More than one million residents from coastal areas of North and South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate. Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.