North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says the risk to life is “rising with the angry waters” as what is left of Hurricane Florence dumps tons of rain across the state.
“Wherever you live in North Carolina, be alert for sudden flash floods. Pay attention to the weather warnings and be ready to head for safer ground if you’re asked to evacuate,” Cooper warned residents during Sunday news conference.
Florence is now a tropical depression, but continues to dump buckets of rain on parts of the southeastern United States as it slowly creeps toward the mid-Atlantic.
Some parts of North Carolina have already received about 100 centimeters of rain, while totals of about 50 centimeters have been reported across wider areas. Forecasters expect five to 12 centimeters of rain to fall as the storm moves from the Carolinas up into southern New England in the coming days.
All of that rain is swelling streams and rivers and creating what the National Hurricane Center called “prolonged significant river flooding.”
At least 17 people have been killed. Entire towns and cities are completely cut off by floodwaters. Major highways are covered and more than 700,000 homes have no power.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long told Fox News Sunday “This is going to be a long, frustrating event” for those who have lost their homes or face substantial damage when they eventually are able to return.
It said the storm will continue to “produce heavy and excessive rainfall,” endangering towns and cities in its path.
One of the hardest hit cities in North Carolina was New Bern, a riverfront city not far from the coast. Mayor Dana Outlaw said the city, hit by a three-meter storm surge at the height of the storm on Friday, has 4,200 damaged homes.
Across North Carolina, 26,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters after escaping their homes in advance of the flood waters.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit the storm-ravaged region in the coming days, but only after it is determined his arrival would not disrupt continuing rescue and recovery efforts.
Trump is due to receive a briefing about the emergency response Monday morning.