USA – Rain From Storm Matthew Floods North Carolina, Rivers Still Rising, Thousands Stranded

The raging winds and torrential rain have eased and Hurricane Matthew has weakened to a post tropical cyclone and moved out to sea. However, the impacts of the storm are still affecting North Carolina, with several areas of the state flooded and rivers rising fast.

Eleven storm-related fatalities have now been confirmed in North Carolina. It is feared that number could rise with areas facing major flooding. Five people are still missing in Cumberland County and one in Johnson County.

In a press conference yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory said:

“The greatest threat at this point in time remains inland flooding that will continue throughout this week in both central and eastern North Carolina.”

A federal disaster was declared yesterday for 31 counties affected by Hurricane Matthew, opening the door for federal assistance to aid recovery in affected areas.

More than 700 swift water rescues were carried out in Cumberland County over the weekend. Around 200 people remain in shelters, unable to return to their homes. Parts of I-95 near Fayetteville remain closed due to flooding. During a visit to the flood-hit city of Fayetteville in Cumberland County, the Governor said “this storm is still impacting people in a big way. You have got to see it to believe all the devastation that has occurred.”

In the city of Lumberton, where 2,000 residents were stranded after the Lumber River overflowed on Monday 10 October. Helicopters, boats and swift water rescue teams were deployed to the area. The Lumber river stood at 21.87 feet on Monday, well above the previous high of 18.3 feet.

Flood rescues. Photo: Office of the Governor of North Carolina
North Carolina emergency services evacuate residents of a neighborhood that fell victim to the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in Fayetteville, N.C., Oct 08, 2016. Heavy rains caused by Hurricane Matthew have led to flooding as high as five feet in some areas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Shaw, 382nd Public Affairs Detachment/Released)
Flood rescues. Photo: Office of the Governor of North Carolina
North Carolina Army National Guardsmen and local emergency services assist with evacuation efforts in Fayetteville, N.C., Oct. 08, 2016. Heavy rains caused by Hurricane Matthew have led to flooding as high as five feet in some areas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Shaw, 382nd Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

During the press conference of 10 October, the Governor appealed to people not to drive in flood waters.

After announcing another fatality where, he said, yet again the victim was in a car that was swept away by flood water, the Governor stressed the importance of recognizing the dangers of driving in flood waters.

“I cannot stress more. If you see a road that’s flooded, do not take your car through that road. If you see a barrier, do not go around that barrier. This is a life and death decision. Not only are you making it for yourself, you are making it also for the rescue personnel who will be called upon to try to save your life.”

Rivers

Some parts of the state recorded over 18 inches (39 cm) of rain over the weekend. It’s no surprise then that several rivers are still rising.

Major flooding is expected over the next few days in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers.

Areas further downstream such as Kinston on the Neuse River are expected to see levels peak over the weekend, from around 15 October.

Emergency officials in North Carolina’s Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River.

Evacuation areas in Lenoir County, North Carolina.
Evacuation areas along the Neuse River in Lenoir County, North Carolina.

River Levels

Neuse River levels in North Carolina, 09 to 18 October, 2016. Images: NOAA

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Lumber River levels in North Carolina, 09 to 18 October, 2016. Images: NOAA

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Tar River levels in North Carolina, 09 to 18 October, 2016. Images: NOAA

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Federal Disaster Declaration

A federal disaster was declared yesterday for 31 counties in North Carolina, opening the door for further federal assistance to recover from the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.

“A lot of people are hurting right now in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the devastation is beyond words,” said Governor McCrory. “This expedited declaration will help provide much needed and immediate federal assistance to communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew. I want to thank our federal partners for approving this declaration quickly and for their continued assistance.”

Yesterday, Governor McCrory requested an expedited major disaster declaration that will provide additional and immediate federal assistance to the state. This declaration will help local and state governments augment the costs of responding to the disaster and also help pay to clear and remove storm debris. Preliminary damage assessments are ongoing to help gather the necessary documentation to apply for additional federal assistance for other counties and to reimburse the cost of damaged infrastructure.

The counties approved for the disaster declaration include: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Tyrrell, Washington, and Wayne counties.