Trump to visit flood-stricken North Carolina after deadly hurricane
U.S. president says 'tremendous effort and bravery' being shown in hard-hit communities
Residents of the Carolinas struggled to return to normal on Tuesday after taking a beating from Hurricane Florence, but those efforts were hindered by standing water and the anticipation of more flooding from swollen rivers.
North Carolina officials on Tuesday said their state's death toll from Florence rose to 27 after a 46-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell on her vehicle while she was driving.
The fatality brings the storm's overall death toll to at least 35 in three states.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that the flooding sparked by Florence's torrential rains is not yet over — and could get worse.
"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end," he said, as he urged people in shelters to stay away from the hardest-hit coastal communities.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit North Carolina on Wednesday. He has been criticized for his handling of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last year, and more recently for disputing the official death toll of 3,000.
Trump said on Tuesday that "tremendous effort and bravery" is being shown in communities hit by the hurricane.
"I want to just salute all of the people that are working so hard," he said, saying first responders, law enforcement, military members and FEMA are doing an incredible job after Florence passed.
As the remnants of Florence — which by Tuesday was a rainy, windy mass of low pressure — pushed through Pennsylvania and reached into New England, the National Weather Service said the storm had dumped more than 30 trillion litres of rain on North Carolina.
In the hard-hit state, widespread flooding already has reached roofs, turned highways into rivers and left thousands to be saved by rescue workers.
It is not yet safe to return to Wilmington. While some roads may be open, they need to remain free for emergency supplies, power crews & others working to restore essential services. Routes open now may not be open for long. Road conditions are constantly changing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlorenceNC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FlorenceNC</a> <a href="https://t.co/geDXIntV4e">pic.twitter.com/geDXIntV4e</a>—@NCEmergency
Waterways were expected to keep rising on Tuesday in places like Fayetteville, N.C., a city of 200,000 in the southern part of the state, according to the weather service, hampering efforts to restore power, clear roads and return to homes.
"Flooding is still going to be a concern into the weekend and into next week," said NWS meteorologist Hal Austin, noting there is a chance of rain for the region on Tuesday and Wednesday. "No more water, not even a drop, please."
Worries are now on the rise about South Carolina, too, where forecasters say it could be several days before rivers crest. That's because water is flowing into them from North Carolina rivers swollen by Florence's relentless rains.
NWS officials said Tuesday that the Pee Dee River was beginning to crest at the town of Cheraw but it would take several days or more for it to reach its high point downstream.
Wilmington gets much-needed help
Stranded by Florence's epic floods days after the hurricane hit North Carolina, Wilmington residents lined up by the hundreds Tuesday for free food, water and tarps, while officials managed to open a second route into the surrounded city.
In the city of 120,000 people, workers began handing out supplies using a system that resembled a fast-food drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to pallets lining a street, placed an order and left without having to get out.
Todd Tremain needed tarps to cover up spots where Florence's winds ripped shingles off his roof. "The roof is leaking, messing up the inside of the house," he said.
WATCH The National's Paul Hunter reports from Wilmington:
Others got a case of bottled water or military rations. An olive-drab military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.
Four days after Florence blew ashore and began unloading roughly half a metre of rain that paralyzed much of North Carolina, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said Tuesday that two routes were now open into the city, which had been cut off by floodwaters.
Still, officials encouraged evacuees to stay away until conditions improve.
Road conditions 'still changing'
Thousands of rescues have taken place in the two states, and over 650 people were taken to safety in and around Wilmington said Barbi Baker, a spokesperson for New Hanover County.
With 1,500 roads closed across North Carolina, fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage.
"Road conditions are still changing," the North Carolina Department of Transportation said on Twitter on Tuesday. "What's open now may become impassable."
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had 26 helicopters and 11 aircraft looking for people in trouble.
Property damage from the storm is expected to total at least $17 billion to $22 billion US, but that forecast could be conservative depending on further flooding, risk management firm Moody's Analytics said.
A power outage at a wastewater treatment plant in Wilmington resulted in partially treated sewage water being released into the Cape Fear River, said Reggie Cheatham, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Emergency Management.
Sewage releases in the Neuse River were reported as well as overflows at several hog "lagoons," used to store waste from pig farms.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News