Hurricane Florence is 'deadly' and 'far from over,' North Carolina governor warns
There have been three deaths officially attributed to Hurricane Florence and more are under investigation in a storm whose effects will continue amassing over the coming days, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday afternoon.
The governor's office confirmed the death of a mother and infant in Wilmington as well as a man in Pender County who died while plugging in a power generator. Cooper would not confirm the number of other deaths under investigation.
"The loss of life is devastating," Cooper said at a press briefing. "The fact is, this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from it ending."
Florence continued to move slowly across North Carolina nearly twelve hours after making landfall, bringing heavy rains and unprecedented flooding.
The rains are projected to continue through the weekend. The National Weather Service estimates the heavy rains could subside slightly by late Sunday, but showers and thunderstorms are likely into Monday evening. Flash flood warnings are in effect for much of the coast moving inland.
"We have days of rain ahead of us and that means more rivers will rise and flood communities," Cooper advised. "Reports of damage are coming and the forecast tells us we have a lot more fo the storm to endure."
More than 14 inches of rain have already fallen in New Bern, on top of a ten-foot storm surge that swelled the Neuse River and caused massive flooding. The additional rainfall means the effects of the storm will continue to accumulate over days.
"We anticipate our damages will continue to rise over the coming week," said Gen. Jim Trogdon, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Earlier in the day, state authorities described Hurricane Florence as a 1,000-year flooding event.
After the winds die down, the rain will pose a persistent threat. Travel conditions will remain hazardous. Members of the state's emergency operations teams are urging residents to resist the temptation to return home to check on the damage.
The flooding from Hurricane Florence is expected to be worse than Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Areas that experienced flooding during Matthew should expect the same or worse during Florence.
The National Weather Service has also flagged parts of the state that have never experienced flooding.
As Florence moves west, areas from Fayetteville through the sandhills and all the way to Charlotte are under a flood watch. Residents are encouraged to pay close attention to flood warnings and heed instructions to evacuate.
In the western part of the state, the rainfall over the weekend could lead to landslides.
Cooper warned residents across the state, "If the storm hasn't reached you yet, it's still coming."
The state is currently working with federal partners to prepare for the recovery effort which will take days and weeks. Efforts to provide longterm housing for people who are unable to return home are already underway, said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.
At least 20,000 people are currently in shelters across the state. The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill also opened a shelter able to temporarily house hundreds of people.
In addition, 23 states have stepped in to provide assistance to North Carolina in the immediate aftermath of the storm and during the longer-term recovery.