Flo death toll rises

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The discovery of a one-year-old child swept away from its mother’s arms as they attempted to escape from a flooded vehicle in Union County adds to the loss of life in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence.

Union County officials recovered the child’s body Monday morning. The child’s mother had driven around a barricade blocking off a flooded portion of N.C. 218. She managed to escape, with her child in her arms, after the vehicle was swept off the road due to fast-moving floodwaters. However, she lost her grip on the child.

Also on Monday, Union County officials discovered a man’s body next to a submerged vehicle.

Those two casualties raised the death toll in North Carolina to 13 due to Hurricane Florence. Six others have died in South Carolina from the same storm.

Among the dead are a three-month-old child who died Sunday in Dallas, NC after being struck inside a home by a fallen tree.

The hurricane claimed its first victims in North Carolina on Friday when a tree in Wilmington crashed into a home, killing a mother and her small child.

Meanwhile, three have died in Duplin County in separate incidents that involved their vehicles being swept off the road due to flooding.

A 77-year-old man in Kinston was found deceased in his yard on Friday, apparently knocked over while checking on his dogs outside.

Also on Friday, a Lenoir County man was electrocuted while attempting to connect extension cords from a generator.

Three others were killed on Friday – one in Wayne County (cause unknown), and two in Cumberland County in a residential fire.

Heavy rainfall from Florence, as high as 30-plus inches in some locations, is expected to cause added misery this week as major flooding is expected on the Neuse, Pamlico, Trent and Northeast Cape Fear rivers as well as Contentnea Creek and Swift Creek

The worst river flooding will be in Greene, Lenoir, Duplin, Jones, Onslow, Craven, Wayne, Sampson and Pender counties. Some of these waterways will see historic crest levels.

The Tar, Roanoke and Cashie rivers are not forecasted to reach flood levels.

Governor Roy Cooper continued to urge North Carolinians on Monday to stay in safe shelter and remain alert to changing conditions due to remnants of Hurricane Florence including significant flooding.

“For many parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate. Flood waters are rising as rivers crest and will for days,” Gov. Cooper said. “I urge if you, if you don’t have to drive, stay off the roads, particularly south of U.S. 64 and east of Interstate 73/74. And don’t drive around barricades on roads. Just a few inches of water on a road can sweep you away.”

Five spots have preliminarily topped North Carolina’s tropical cyclone rainfall record: Swansboro (33.90 inches), Hofmann Forest (29.48 inches), Sunny Point (27.44 inches), Nature Conservancy (27.12 inches) and Newport/Morehead City (25.20 inches). The previous record was 24.06 inches from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

As of Monday afternoon, the NC Department of Transportation reported approximately 1,200 road closures – including interstates 95 and 40, numerous highways and other primary routes in North Carolina – due to flooding and debris from Florence.

As of noon, more than 465,000 people in North Carolina were without power, and those figures were fluctuating as utility crews worked to restore electricity to customers throughout the Tar Heel State.

First responders have reported rescuing and evacuating 2,600 people and 300 animals from flooded areas so far, and rescues are ongoing. The governor said state, local and federal teams have been able to get supplies through to many in need, including some communities that are surrounded by water. That includes 23 truckloads of food, water and supplies that were shipped into Wilmington Monday morning.

More than 15,000 people have sought refuge in 110 shelters, including mega-shelters at Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gov. Cooper thanked the numerous volunteers and the shelter workers who have helped so many people throughout the storm.

“There are so many heroes to thank. The rescuers who are risking their lives to pull people from flood waters. The law enforcement and firefighters who are working around the clock. The nurses and doctors, the pilots, the utility workers. From the people of North Carolina, I say thank you,” Cooper said.

The Governor’s Office has activated the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund for donations to support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence. To donate, visit governor.nc.gov or text FLORENCE to 20222.