The Latest: Flash-flood emergency in North Carolina county

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NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) - The Latest on Tropical Depression Florence (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service has declared a flash-flood emergency for part of the county that is home to North Carolina's biggest city.

The emergency was put into effect Sunday afternoon for central and southeastern Mecklenburg County. The weather service says streams and creeks are running very high in south Charlotte, Matthews and nearby areas.

The weather service warns some bodies of water have risen to record stages and impacts may be "unprecedented."

The city of Charlotte tweeted that residents should stay off the roads.

A flash-flood emergency also was declared for adjacent Union County, where the weather service says several water rescues were underway and emergency management officials reported as many as 70 flooded roads.

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3:30 p.m.

South Carolina officials are warning residents about flash flooding as rains from Florence continue to pelt the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters on Sunday that it will be days until the cresting of rivers in the area of most concern, along the state's border with North Carolina.

Officials have been warning for days that flooding could be disastrous in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin, into which several swollen rivers that originate in North Carolina flow.

National Weather Service officials noted that as much as 16 inches (40 centimeters) of rain have fallen in Chesterfield County, with other nearby areas marking similar rainfall totals from Florence..

Transportation Secretary Christy Hall says workers are still working on projects along two roadways to divert rainwater to keep U.S. 378 and U.S. 501 Bypass passable.

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3:20 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken to the mayors of New Bern, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as he monitors the response to Florence.

The White House says Trump was also briefed Sunday on the storm's aftermath by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Trump and Mayors Dana Outlaw of New Bern and Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach discussed rescue-and-response efforts in those communities.

The White House says Outlaw thanked Trump for immediately authorizing an emergency declaration to help speed the delivery of federal assistance.

2:05 p.m.

A small town in northeast South Carolina is getting flooding rains from what's left of Florence.

Downpours overnight flooded main roads in the town of Cheraw early Sunday and brought water to the doorsteps of some low-lying homes.

Cheraw Police Chief Keith Thomas says about 12 people were evacuated from four homes. Police rescued five others from cars that stalled out in floodwaters. Thomas says no one was injured.

The flooding largely receded from the town of about 6,000 people by Sunday afternoon. But Thomas said rain could fall until midnight.

Debbie Covington was nervously watching water rise in a drainage ditch near her home. She evacuated her elderly parents from their house next door, which sits directly beside the overflowing ditch.

Covington said roads blocked by water and fallen trees were making it difficult to drive.

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2 p.m.

The death toll from Florence has risen to 15.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol says a pickup truck was traveling west on Interstate 20 in Kershaw County on Sunday morning when it went off the roadway. Troopers say the truck struck an overpass support beam, and the driver died at the scene.

Kershaw County Coroner David West says the driver's name has not been released because all relatives have not yet been notified.

Heavy rain has fallen on portions of central and eastern South Carolina after former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence moved onshore.

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1:10 p.m.

Some officials rely on the "Waffle House index" to determine how serious a storm is. If the Waffle House is closed, the storm is really, really bad.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, it's the "Rude Awakening index."

Bruce Arnold owns the downtown coffee shop by that name that has been in business in the city for 20 years.

Arnold says the shop only shuts down if it loses power, which it did in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

But as of Sunday afternoon, the shop still had its lights on and was open for business - even as others nearby were boarded up and had sandbags piled in front of their doors.

Meanwhile, long lines were forming at gas stations Sunday as a persistent rain fell. Many of the city's stations are out of fuel.

Debbie Randolph says she and her husband called one station that said they had 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters) - and 60 people waiting to fill up.

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12:50 p.m.

The city of Wilmington, North Carolina, has been completely cut off by floodwaters and officials are asking for additional help from state law enforcement and the National Guard.

Woody White is chairman of the board of commissioners of New Hanover County. He said at a news conference Sunday that additional rainfall Saturday night made roads into the city of 120,000 impassable.

White says officials are planning for food and water to be flown to the county, although new distribution centers will have to be found because of all the rain in the northern part of the county. He also noted that patients on oxygen and dialysis are being moved from the New Hanover Regional Medical Center to a high school where a new shelter has opened.

Earlier Sunday, officials from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority had said they were almost out of fuel for the water plant and might have to shut down. The utility later issued a release saying it had found additional fuel.

White says officials have asked Gov. Roy Cooper for additional aid.

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12:50 p.m.

North Carolina officials say large-scale search-and-rescue operations are underway in coastal areas as floodwaters from Florence spread across the state and road conditions worsen.

Michael Sprayberry is director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He said at a news conference that more than 1,000 responders were working with more than 200 boats to rescue people Sunday afternoon.

Officials are also delivering food, water and rescue vehicles to hard-hit areas.

The state's transportation secretary says 171 primary roads are closed, 100 more than a day earlier. Officials warned that problems would spread westward Sunday along with the remnants of the storm.

Gov. Roy Cooper says the storm has "never been more dangerous" than it is now for areas extending from Fayetteville and Lumberton, across the Sandhills, to the central part of the state and into the mountains.

Around 15,000 North Carolinians are in shelters and about 700,000 were without power Sunday.

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Noon

North Carolina state regulators and environmental groups are monitoring the threat from hog and poultry farms in low-lying, flood-prone areas.

These industrial-scale farms typically feature vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters.

In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in the floodwaters.

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11:45 a.m.

North Carolina's transportation secretary says one of his top priorities is to find a way to get into Wilmington after damage from Florence closed major roads into the city.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told The Associated Press on Sunday that U.S. 74 into Wilmington is impassable and Interstate 40 into the city also is closed.

Trodgon spoke as he flew with Gov. Roy Cooper over some of the damaged areas. During the flight on a U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane, they flew from Raleigh and to some of the hardest-hit areas, including Fayetteville, Lumberton, Jacksonville and New Bern. Weather conditions prevented them from getting as far east as Wilmington.

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11:45 a.m.

The manager of a southeastern North Carolina county says about 90 people have been rescued from high waters due to flooding.

Columbus County Manager Mike Stephens said late Sunday morning that rivers and streams have been rising due to large amounts of rain from Florence and power is out in a large swath of the county. Stephens says the county's secondary roads are "almost impassable" and water is covering part of one main highway, U.S. 74.

Stephens says some of the people were rescued from vehicles that ran into deep water.

He says there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities in Columbus County from the storm.

11:20 a.m.

Former hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence has claimed a 14th victim: a man who drowned when a pickup truck flipped into a drainage ditch in South Carolina.

Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson says 23-year-old Michael Dalton Prince was a passenger in the truck, which lost control on a flooded two-lane road early Sunday.

Johnson says the driver and another passenger escaped after the truck ended upside down in the flooded ditch north of Georgetown.

Prince is the fourth person killed by the storm in South Carolina.

Authorities say a Horry County couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning running a generator inside and a Union County woman died when her vehicle hit a tree branch.

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10:30 a.m.

One of the authorities leading the response to Florence says the storm is causing "historic and unprecedented flooding."

Michael Sprayberry is director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Florence's combination of heavy rainfall, extreme storm surge and high winds makes the storm "one for the record books."

Both Sprayberry and Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz say they are getting all the support they need from the federal government.

Schultz has a lead role in responding to Florence. He notes that the storm is moving very slowly and that some of the affected areas haven't seen the worst of it.

He also notes that the affected areas are looking at a "long-term recovery."

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9:45 a.m.

The mayor of a Fayetteville, North Carolina, suburb says about 100 people in her community have been urged to evacuate to higher ground over flooding concerns.

Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said Sunday morning that the warning went out to neighborhoods around Hope Mills Lake because the water there is expected to rise significantly. She says fire and police officials were going door to door in the affected neighborhoods Sunday morning to make sure people are aware.

Warner says a complete dam failure is not expected. So far, she says the lake hasn't overflowed its banks.

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9:45 a.m.

The mayor of New Bern, North Carolina, says his city has imposed a curfew. He says there are 30 roads still unpassable, 4,200 homes and more than 300 commercial buildings damaged, 6,000 customers without power and 1,200 residents in shelters because of hurricane-turned Tropical Depression Florence.

Mayor Dana Outlaw told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that many of the creeks in the area are "increasing by the hour" and there's concern about trees falling due to the saturated ground conditions.

Outlaw says officials are "urging residents to stay inside and to not travel," especially so as to not interrupt utility workers trying to restore power.

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9:45 a.m.

The head of the U.S. government's disaster relief agency says Florence is unfortunately delivering the damage that was predicted as it sweeps across the Carolinas.

Brock Long told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to meet the demands of North Carolina officials "as they're coming up to us."

Long noted that "recovery is always a very frustrating process for people when they've lost their livelihoods, but we're going to be OK."

Long says the agency's immediate focus is on search-and-rescue efforts and meeting the needs of people who are in shelters.

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9 a.m.

Authorities say a couple have died in South Carolina after using a generator inside their home during Florence.

Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard said 63-year-old Mark Carter King and 61-year-old Debra Collins Rion were killed by breathing in carbon monoxide.

Willard said in a statement their bodies were found in a Loris home Saturday afternoon, but they likely died the day before as the heavy rains and winds from former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence were moving onshore.

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5:10 a.m.

Florence has weakened into to tropical depression but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center says in its 5 a.m. update Sunday that excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be "catastrophic." An elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

Forecasters say heavy rains also are expected early in the week in parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia. Both states also are at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, Florence was about 20 miles (35 kilometers) southwest of Columbia, South Carolina. It has top sustained winds of 25 mph (55 kph) and is moving west at 8 mph (13 kph).

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2:06 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is expected to weaken into a depression soon but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be "catastrophic." In its 2 a.m. update Sunday, the center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

Forecasters say heavy rains also are expected early in the week in parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia. Both states also are at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, Florence was about 25 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and is moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).

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3:40 p.m.

Many residents who evacuated North Carolina's Outer Banks ahead of Hurricane Florence are making their way back onto the barrier islands, which were spared from the worst of the storm's wrath.

The residents as well as workers and property owners were being allowed onto the northern portion of the islands beginning Saturday morning. Visitors were expected to be allowed entry to the same area beginning Sunday.

County officials and business owners reported relatively minimal damage, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

While the Outer Banks survived Florence fairly unscathed, scientists say they remain incredibly vulnerable to future storms, climate change, and sea-level rise.

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3:30 p.m.

Authorities in North Carolina are reporting two more weather-related deaths.

The Duplin County Sheriff's Office said on its Facebook page on Saturday that two people died due to "flash flooding and swift water on roadways."

The Associated Press was unable to get details because the sheriff's office phone line was not working.

The deaths bring the death toll from Florence, which came ashore on Friday as a hurricane, to at least seven. All but one of those deaths occurred in North Carolina. One victim died in South Carolina.

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2:50 p.m.

Hurricane Florence evacuees from the Carolinas are getting free tickets to watch the University of Florida's football team play Colorado State.

The ticket office and athletic association at the University of Florida extended the invitation to evacuees for Saturday's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Gator officials say evacuees had to present a valid ID showing they're from North Carolina or South Carolina.

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2:05 p.m.

Though weakened, Florence remains a very large, slow and dangerous storm as it swirls over the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence's top sustained winds were holding at 45 mph (75 kph), with higher gusts east of the storm's center.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Florence was inching west at 3 mph (6 kph), with its center located about 50 miles (85 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Forecasters say prolonged rainfall from Florence could produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.

Tropical storm-force winds stretched up to 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the storm's center.

1:50 p.m.

Officials in South Carolina are reporting the state's first fatality due to Florence, bringing the storm's overall death toll to at least five.

A 61-year-old woman was killed late Friday when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree that had fallen across Highway 18 near the town of Union.

Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said the woman, who was wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

The tree was about 6 feet above the road surface. Hughes said the vehicle's roof is what struck the tree.

Four weather-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina.

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12:35 p.m.

Portions of eastern North Carolina's two interstates are closed because of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence's torrential rains and may not re-open before Monday.

The state Department of Transportation says a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95 between its intersection with I-40 and near the town of Dunn is closed. Law enforcement has set up a detour.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said Saturday that authorities were still assembling an alternate route for a 5-mile section of I-40 that is closed in both directions near the town of Warsaw, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of Raleigh.

The state DOT said on its website that the two roads are expected to re-open by Monday morning.

Trogdon says road conditions are expected to get worse in the immediate future, pointing out the number of closed primary roads in eastern counties had doubled compared to Friday. He urged motorists not to travel east of I-95 or south of U.S. Highway 70.

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11:45 a.m.

The Navy says almost 30 Virginia-based ships and 128 aircraft sent away from their bases in the Hampton Roads-area because of now-Tropical Storm Florence have been given the go-ahead to return.

The Navy says the aircraft will make their way back beginning Saturday, and the ships will start to return Sunday.

A Navy statement says the decision comes after inspections of the region's port and airfield.

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11:30 a.m.

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

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order lifting evacuation orders for Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and the Edisto Beach area of Colleton County effective at noon Saturday.

McMaster had ordered residents in most of the state's coastal counties to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival. The slow-moving storm is still dumping colossal amounts of rain on North Carolina and parts of northern South Carolina.

Evacuation orders remain in place for Horry and Georgetown counties along South Carolina's northern coast.

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11 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence continues to weaken as it dumps dangerous amounts of rain across the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence's top sustained winds have weakened to 45 mph (75 kph).

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), with its center located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The storm's extremely slow speed means the risk of catastrophic flooding remains high across both states. Some areas are forecast to receive up to 15 inches more rain, and storm totals could reach over 3 feet in some areas for the week.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says areas like New Bern, North Carolina, could also see additional storm surge as high tide combines with the ocean waters still being pushed ashore by Florence's outer bands.

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9 a.m.

North Carolina's Harnett County has declared a mandatory evacuation along a river that's expected to rise to more than 17 feet above flood stage.

On its Facebook page, the county said the evacuation was in effect along the Lower Little River near the Cumberland County line.

The National Weather Service is forecasting the river to crest at Manchester at 35.4 feet at about 8 a.m. Monday. Flood stage is 18 feet.

The previous record crest was 29 feet set during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The river is forecast to reach flood stage sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday.

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8:25 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

Money also is available to the state, some local governments, and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties.

8 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain expected before it finally swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.

The National Hurricane Center says top sustained winds have dropped to near 50 mph (80 kph) with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday.

At 5 a.m., the center was all but parked over South Carolina, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 5 mph (8 kph) and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.

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1:30 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread including over 740,000 in North Carolina and 163,000 in South Carolina. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.

Early Saturday morning Florence's winds weakened to 65 mph (100 kph) as it moved forward at 5 mph (7 kph) and was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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11 p.m.

A severe inland flood threat is emerging as remnants of Florence pound the Carolinas with nearly nonstop rain for a second day since the once major hurricane howled ashore.

At least four people have died since Hurricane Florence crashed into the coast Friday and nearly stalled. Though forecasters later downgraded Florence to a tropical storm, the monster system is barely moving over the Carolinas and could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread, and rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.

8 p.m.

The center of Tropical Storm Florence has moved into South Carolina, and both it and North Carolina continue to face powerful winds and catastrophic flooding.

Florence's top sustained winds remain at 70 mph (110 kph) as it crawls west at just 3 mph (6 kph).

At 8 p.m. Friday, Florence was centered about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from its center. The National Hurricane Center says a sustained wind of 55 mph (89 kph) and a gust to 68 mph (109 kph) were reported in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.



 
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