Florence weakens to depression, flood risk rises

People braved the rain to put sandbags in Lumberton North Carolina.               CBS News

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington.

Florence diminished from hurricane strength as it came ashore on Friday, but the large storm's slow progress across the two states could leave much of the region under water in the coming days, according to forecasters. As of Saturday afternoon, about 752,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC.

On Saturday some residents tried to return home, driving through flooded highways armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine trees that covered the road.

"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement.

"Remember: Most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars", Gov. Cooper said.

"Know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood", said Governor Roy Cooper.

A day after Florence blew ashore in North Carolina with 90 miles per hour winds, more than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet by the end of the weekend. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.

Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, whose team used a phone app to locate people in distress.

Speaking during a visit to Moscow less than an hour after the hurricane made landfall in North Carolina, Perry says "we've done this many times before".

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It said it also provided assistance to local governments for clean-up efforts following the storm, including building repairs. Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the US electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.

Rainfall also is swelling waterways: Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculated that 34 million people in the USA are forecast to get at least 3 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably getting at least a foot of rain. Hughes said the vehicle's roof is what struck the tree. A 78-year-old man was killed while trying to connect extension cords outside in the rain, ABC News reported, citing Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

More than 22,600 people in North Carolina were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena.

Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are possible in portions of North Carolina, South Carolina and the southern to central Appalachias to western North Carolina to west-central Virginia and far-eastern West Virginia into early next week, the National Weather Service said. Disaster response efforts are underway. Many of them are boat owners, who help rescue stricken flood victims.

As of Saturday morning, the storm had dumped over 30 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina.

Cline said July was the wettest ever in that part of North Carolina, and the water table rose 21 inches higher than normal.

Evacuation orders have been lifted in several coastal SC counties as Florence continues to dump rain on the state.

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