Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

 
 
Updated 9/16/2018 7:52 AM
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  • FILE - In this Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo provided by DroneBase, an aerial view of the Cape Fear River, N.C., in Buckhorn, N.C. is shown ahead of Hurricane Florence. Record flooding is expected on North Carolina's Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (DroneBase via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo provided by DroneBase, an aerial view of the Cape Fear River, N.C., in Buckhorn, N.C. is shown ahead of Hurricane Florence. Record flooding is expected on North Carolina's Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (DroneBase via AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, Joe Gore, left, and Joshua Adcock prepare for Hurricane Florence as they board up windows on a home in Emerald Isle N.C. Before and after a hurricane, Ace is the place. And Home Depot, Lowe's, and many other hardware and building supply outlets. Not surprisingly, these companies plan for storms such as Hurricane Florence all year.

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, Joe Gore, left, and Joshua Adcock prepare for Hurricane Florence as they board up windows on a home in Emerald Isle N.C. Before and after a hurricane, Ace is the place. And Home Depot, Lowe's, and many other hardware and building supply outlets. Not surprisingly, these companies plan for storms such as Hurricane Florence all year.

  • A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • City of New Bern crews work to clear storm damaged trees in historic New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence brought high winds and storm surges to eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    City of New Bern crews work to clear storm damaged trees in historic New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence brought high winds and storm surges to eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • Resident Alice Tolson steps over storm debris that washed up from the Neuse River at her home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, after Hurricane Florence sweeps over eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    Resident Alice Tolson steps over storm debris that washed up from the Neuse River at her home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, after Hurricane Florence sweeps over eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • Resident Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    Resident Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • Yuri Hickey, right, and a worker from the Red Cross point at a weather report inside a storm shelter at Ridge View High School as remnants of Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. Hickey lives on a sailboat in Charleston and evacuated to the same shelter at Ridge View High School during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. He has also lost two sailboats during hurricanes in the Florida Keys.

    Yuri Hickey, right, and a worker from the Red Cross point at a weather report inside a storm shelter at Ridge View High School as remnants of Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. Hickey lives on a sailboat in Charleston and evacuated to the same shelter at Ridge View High School during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. He has also lost two sailboats during hurricanes in the Florida Keys.

  • New Bern firefighters check the safety of residents in a flood and wind damaged area of Johnson Street in historic New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence brought high winds and storm surges to eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    New Bern firefighters check the safety of residents in a flood and wind damaged area of Johnson Street in historic New Bern, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence brought high winds and storm surges to eastern North Carolina. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

  • A closed sign hangs from the front door of the Blue Flour bakery on Main St. in Columbia, S.C. as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

    A closed sign hangs from the front door of the Blue Flour bakery on Main St. in Columbia, S.C. as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

  • A young man carries bottles of wine down the sidewalk as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C.

    A young man carries bottles of wine down the sidewalk as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C.

  • People cross a downtown street in Columbia, S.C. as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

    People cross a downtown street in Columbia, S.C. as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

  • FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy from the Sutton Lake landing in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington.

    FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy from the Sutton Lake landing in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington.

  • FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo, shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy just outside of Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station.

    FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo, shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy just outside of Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station.

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 file photo, a man jogs down the boardwalk by the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. Record flooding is expected on Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

    FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 file photo, a man jogs down the boardwalk by the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. Record flooding is expected on Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

  • Craig Camara, a volunteer North Shore Animal League, holds a puppy that was rescued from a shelter in one of the three states in the path of Hurricane Florence, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 in Port Washington, N.Y.

    Craig Camara, a volunteer North Shore Animal League, holds a puppy that was rescued from a shelter in one of the three states in the path of Hurricane Florence, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 in Port Washington, N.Y.

  • FILE - In this June 23, 2014 file photo, the dried-up bed of an inactive coal ash pond is seen at Duke Energy's Sutton plant in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington. (Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP)

    FILE - In this June 23, 2014 file photo, the dried-up bed of an inactive coal ash pond is seen at Duke Energy's Sutton plant in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington. (Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP)

  • A special announcement for "Hurricane Hours" is displayed on a shop window as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C.

    A special announcement for "Hurricane Hours" is displayed on a shop window as the remnants of Hurricane Florence slowly move across the East Coast Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Columbia, S.C.

  • FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 file photo, Jim Craig, David Burke and Chris Rayner load generators as people buy supplies at The Home Depot in Wilmington, N.C. "It's a year-round thing for us," said Margaret Smith, spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "When it's hurricane season, we are operating 24 hours a day." (Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 file photo, Jim Craig, David Burke and Chris Rayner load generators as people buy supplies at The Home Depot in Wilmington, N.C. "It's a year-round thing for us," said Margaret Smith, spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "When it's hurricane season, we are operating 24 hours a day." (Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, people line up outside a Home Depot for a new supply of generators and plywood in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C. "It's a year-round thing for us," said Margaret Smith, spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "When it's hurricane season, we are operating 24 hours a day."

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, people line up outside a Home Depot for a new supply of generators and plywood in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C. "It's a year-round thing for us," said Margaret Smith, spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Home Depot. "When it's hurricane season, we are operating 24 hours a day."

  • Rain-soaked furniture store workers load boxes into a truck, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville, N.C., less than a mile from the Cape Fear River, which is set to crest at 62 feet early Tuesday. When John Rose who owns a furniture business heard about possible flooding, he quickly moved to have a crew empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse located in a low-lying strip mall threatened by the coming surge of water.

    Rain-soaked furniture store workers load boxes into a truck, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville, N.C., less than a mile from the Cape Fear River, which is set to crest at 62 feet early Tuesday. When John Rose who owns a furniture business heard about possible flooding, he quickly moved to have a crew empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse located in a low-lying strip mall threatened by the coming surge of water.

  • In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 photo, Manager Tom Roberts watches as an employee positions a pallet of mulch to protect the Ace Hardware store from Hurricane Florence in Calabash, N.C. Roberts still had supplies like bottled water, but went ahead and closed so his employees could prepare their homes.

    In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 photo, Manager Tom Roberts watches as an employee positions a pallet of mulch to protect the Ace Hardware store from Hurricane Florence in Calabash, N.C. Roberts still had supplies like bottled water, but went ahead and closed so his employees could prepare their homes.

NEW BERN, N.C. -- As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding.

After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. Storm surges, flash floods and winds scattered destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct rescues Saturday.

The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical depression climbed to 11.

Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecasters now warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.

Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels: The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to burst their banks, possibly flooding nearby communities.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the North Carolina coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the river. Rain-soaked furniture workers helped him quickly empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse in a low-lying strip mall.

"It's the first time we've ever had to move anything like this," Rose said. "If the river rises to the level they say it's going to, then this warehouse is going to be under water."

On U.S. Route 401 nearby, rain rose in ditches and around unharvested tobacco crops along the road. Ponds had begun to overflow, and creeks passing under the highway churned with muddy, brown water. Further along the Cape Fear River, grass and trees lining the banks were partly submerged, still well below a highway bridge crossing it.

"It's hard to believe it's going to get that high," says Elizabeth Machado, who came to the bridge to check on the river.

Fayetteville's city officials, meanwhile, got help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate some 140 residents of an assisted living facility in Fayetteville to a safer location at a church.

Already, more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain has fallen in places, and forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet (45 centimeters) before Sunday is out.

"I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east-southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, crawling west at 3 mph (6 kph) -- not even as fast as a person walking. Its winds were down to 40 mph (75 kph).

In Goldsboro, North Carolina, home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, roads that frequently flood were already closed Saturday by rushing water. Dozens of electric repair trucks massed to respond to damage expected to hit central North Carolina as rainwater collected into rivers headed to the coast. Hundreds of thousands of outages have been reported.

A creek that feeds into the Neuse was rushing over a road near Phil Eubanks' home Saturday. Another creek backed up into their basement Friday, but based on past experience Eubanks and his wife think the worst is over for them.

"I didn't sleep last night. It was creeping up those steps" from the basement, said his jittery wife, Ellen. "It came up. It went down today. I think we're OK."

On Saturday evening, Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington, North Carolina. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash were displaced at the Sutton Plant and that contaminated storm water likely flowed into the plant's cooling pond.

Sutton was mothballed in 2013 and the company has been excavating ash to remove to safer lined landfills. The ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

In New Bern , along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people Saturday.

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

"Amazing. They did awesome," said Knox, who was stranded with seven others including a boy in a life vest.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people were safely rescued in the town of 30,000 residents. She called damage to thousands of buildings "heart-wrenching."

Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.

Coast Guard helicopters took off across the street to rescue stranded people from rooftops and swamped cars.

The Marines rescued about 20 civilians from floodwaters near Camp Lejeune, using Humvees and amphibious assault vehicles, the base reported.

The dead included a mother and baby killed by a falling tree in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that fell across a highway.

Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, authorities said. A husband and wife died in a storm-linked house fire, officials said, and an 81-year-old man died after falling while packing to evacuate.

AP writers Alex Derosier in Fayetteville, Jonathan Drew in Wilmington; Emery P. Dalesio in New Bern, North Carolina; Denise Lavoie and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Seth Borenstein and Michael Biesecker in Washington; Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina; Jennifer Kay in Miami; Russ Bynum in Columbia, South Carolina; Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina, and Jay Reeves in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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