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18 Dead, More Than 900 Rescued as Florence Floods the Carolinas

Climate
A truck submerged by Florence flooding in Lumberton, NC. ALEX EDELMAN / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Florence, downgraded to a tropical depression, pummeled the Carolinas this weekend, killing 18 so far and instigating flooding that officials said could last through mid-week, CNN reported Monday.

Florence, which scientists predicted would be more than 50 percent wetter due to climate change, is expected to dump 40 inches of rain on parts of southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina, with some swollen rivers not cresting until later in the coming week.


"The storm has never been more dangerous than it is right now," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Sunday, as BBC News reported. "Wherever you live in North Carolina, be alert for sudden flooding."

North Carolina officials are telling people not to travel in the state, and sections of I-95 and I-40 are closed, CNN reported.

More than 900 people have been rescued from rising water in North Carolina alone, and about 532,338 households in North Carolina and 61,000 in South Carolina are without power.

Between Sunday and Tuesday, six more inches of rain could fall in North Carolina and Virginia. Forecasters predict the storm will then move north, dumping two to four inches of rain on West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New England beginning Tuesday.

The city of Wilmington, North Carolina is entirely cut off by flood water, BBC News reported.

"Do not come here," New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White said, as BBC News reported. "Our roads are flooded, there is no access into Wilmington ... We want you home, but you can't come yet."

The town of Lumberton, North Carolina was flooded for the second time in two years, The Huffington Post reported.

In 2016, flooding from Hurricane Matthew forced evacuations and damaged homes, and the residents are now reliving the ordeal.

"There's a lot of houses in here that haven't been put back together from Matthew yet," Lumberton resident Diana Collazo told The Huffington Post after being rescued from rising flood waters Sunday.

Flooding was made worse when attempts to reinforce a temporary bern in the levee protecting the city from the rise of the Lumber River failed Sunday afternoon.

Rains also caused a slope at a coal ash landfill near Wilmington to collapse Saturday, displacing about 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, The Associated Press reported.

The collapse occurred at the closed L.V. Sutton Power Station used as coal ash storage by Duke Energy, which was the company behind the devastating coal ash spill in Eden in 2014.

Company officials said contaminated runoff likely ended up in a cooling pond, and they do not yet know if any spilled from the pond into the Cape Fear River.

Environmental groups had warned that Duke Energy should do more to protect its coal ash storage sites from extreme weather.

"Unfortunately, Duke Energy has spent years lobbying and litigating and still has not removed the coal ash from its dangerous riverfront pits in the coastal area, some of which are in the floodplain," Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Frank Holleman told The Associated Press. "When a hurricane like Florence hits, we have to hope and pray that our communities do not suffer the consequences of years of irresponsible coal ash practices by the coal ash utilities."

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