What we know so far
- At least 43 people have died after Hurricane Florence landfall on the North Carolina coast, setting off massive flooding that is still ongoing.
- At least three rivers are expected to crest this weekend. "New areas are flooding with little warning," state officials warned.
- President Trump toured Florence damage, asked officials how his North Carolina golf course was doing.
- Millions of people were evacuated in North and South Carolina ahead of the storm, and many people are still unable to access their homes.
- The floods are causing environmental issues as well — hog feces lagoons are overflowing and a waters breached a power company's dam, releasing potentially toxic material into a local waterway.
Scores of fish died on a North Carolina highway after being washed up by receding floodwaters
Firefighters in North Carolina have been washing scores of fish off of a highway after their carcasses washed up on the road with Hurricane Florence's floodwaters.
The multitude of fish carcasses showed up on a stretch of Interstate 40 in Pender County, according to a Facebook post from the Penderlea Fire Department. According to the department, the fish swam away from their natural habitat during flooding from Florence, and when the water eventually drained, the fish were stuck far from a natural body of water.
“Well, we can add ‘washing fish off of the interstate’ to the long list of interesting things firefighters get to experience!” the department wrote in a Facebook post. "Hurricane Florence caused massive flooding in our area and allowed the fish to travel far from their natural habitat, stranding them on the interstate when waters receded."
Images and video posted by the fire department showed crews spraying down the asphalt and moving the dead fish out of the vehicle lanes:
The fire department cleared a portion of the highway before calling in the North Carolina Department of Transportation to finish the job.
Jeff Garrett, an employee with the transportation department, also shared images of the fish carcasses strewn across the interstate:
The images were yet another sign of the widespread devastation left by Florence across the Carolinas. Late Sunday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that Interstate 95 had also reopened to transit in the state, after floodwaters receded at a faster rate than expected.
Elsewhere in the Carolinas, however, more flooding was expected Monday and Tuesday, as rivers continued to crest. In a statement Sunday, Cooper warned North Carolina residents that road conditions remained treacherous, and said that emergency response crews had rescued hundreds of people who had driven into floodwaters over the weekend.
"Florence continues to bring misery to North Carolina," Cooper said. The National Weather Center reported that five river gauges in the state were still at a major flood stage and five others were at a moderate flood stage.
And in South Carolina, as many as 8,000 people were told Sunday they may have to evacuate starting Monday due to anticipated flooding near parts of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers. The flooding — a result of heavy rainfall from Florence — is expected to begin sometime Tuesday, county officials said.
—Jim Dalrymple and Grace Wyler
The death toll has risen to 43 as floodwaters continue to rise
Hurricane Florence has now led to 43 deaths, authorities told the Associated Press.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's office announced Friday night that the storm had killed 32 state residents, "rising today after a 46-year-old man in Brunswick County died when a tree he was cutting fell on him."
Meanwhile, the dangerous floodwaters have continued to rise.
“Although the winds are gone and the rain is not falling, the water is still there and the worst is still to come,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.
Toxic coal ash may be entering a North Carolina river after a dam was breached by floodwaters
Rising floodwaters breached a dam holding back a large reservoir at a power plant in North Carolina on Friday, sending potentially toxic material from a nearby coal ash basin into the local river.
Duke Energy acknowledged that it could not rule out the possibility of toxic coal ash leaking into the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, but maintained there was no significant environmental threat. A spokesperson also told BuzzFeed News that “based on our visual inspections we don’t see evidence of coal ash.”
However, the possibility that toxic pollution could enter the river had environmentalists out in force Friday testing the water.
Material from one of the basins could be seen in the Cape Fear River, although there was a dispute between Duke Energy and environmentalists over whether it was coal ash.
Read more here.
See Hurricane Florence's destruction in these incredible before and after images
These before and after satellite images show the destruction of the area surrounding Wallace, North Carolina, which is about 35 miles northeast of Wilmington and is close to the Northeast Cape Fear River. Most of the before images are from April, while the recent images were all taken Thursday.
See them here.
—Michelle Border Van Dyke
Another death has been attributed to Florence in South Carolina
South Carolina authorities found the body of an 81-year-old man in his car, bringing the state's death toll to nine on Thursday.
Officials found the man in his submerged car off a road in Dillon County, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety said Thursday night.
Officers said it seems rough, powerful floodwaters knocked the man's vehicle off the road on Wednesday.
"It appears a 2011 Chevy Silverado pickup was traveling on Carolina Church Road in Dillon County when the vehicle left the roadway and became submerged in water," Sonny Collins, a spokesperson with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, told ABC News.
South Carolina is still at risk of more flooding as North Carolina's swollen rivers continue to pour into the state.
The South Carolina governor estimates Florence has cost state $1.2 billion
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter Thursday to the South Carolina congressional delegation estimating the financial impact of Hurricane Florence has exceeded $1.2 billion.
The governor said that he asked President Donald Trump to authorize federal disaster recovery funds, laying out the preliminary financial impact of the hurricane.
"The damage in the northeastern part of our state will be catastrophic, surpassing anything recorded in modern history," McMaster wrote.
The estimates were produced from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Trump capped his day with a video montage of the visit
A video clip posted to Twitter Wednesday night recapped President Trump's visit, but for a rundown of all the more awkward moments throughout the day ("Have a good time!"), go here.
Trump said the "exciting part" will be rebuilding in flood-ravaged South Carolina
President Trump warned on Wednesday that the worst of Hurricane Florence has yet to come in South Carolina, but added that rebuilding afterward was going to be “exciting.”
“I think the most exciting part is going to be that rebuild,” he said. “Because we're going to have a lot of rebuilding. I flew over, and there's a lot of damage."
At least eight people have died in South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence.
Trump was touring places damaged by the storm in South Carolina and then stopped by Horry County Emergency Operations Center in Conway, where he met with local officials.
The state is bracing for more flooding in the coming days, and residents in the Pee Dee area were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday afternoon as officials anticipate the Waccamaw, Lynches, Little Pee Dee and Big Pee Dee rivers will crest over the weekend or early next week.
“Now it's nice, but it's the calm before the storm," Trump said. "You're going to have a lot of water. We see it. It's coming down. Nobody would believe this could happen. Already you've broken the records, this is going to add 4, 5, 6 feet of water all over the state.”
“Washington is with you,” he added. “Trump is with you.”
Trump handed out food and greeted residents in New Bern, North Carolina
President Trump handed out food and shook hands with residents in New Bern, North Carolina, while touring areas damaged by the storm with Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials.
More than 800 residents had to be rescued from New Bern after Hurricane Florence made landfall in nearby Wilmington. The area was inundated with heavy rain, causing the Neuse and Trent rivers, which surround the town, to flood. Officials estimated that roughly 4,300 homes and 300 business were damaged or destroyed.
Trump and the group of officials visited a damaged residential area and stopped by a distribution center to hand out food.
At one point, Trump stopped to ask about a large boat that had washed ashore next to a house.
“Is this your boat?” Trump asked.
When the owner said no, Trump replied, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.”
“I think it’s incredible what we’re seeing,” Trump later told reporters. “This boat just came here.”
“They don’t know whose boat that is,” he added. “What’s the law? Maybe it becomes theirs.”
Trump asked North Carolina officials how his golf course was doing after the storm
President Trump asked about the area in North Carolina where he owns a golf course during a briefing with federal and state officials on the impact of Hurricane Florence.
“How is Lake Norman doing?” Trump asked. “I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area.”
Trump National Golf Club is located in Mooresville, North Carolina, next to Lake Norman.
At least 27 people have died in North Carolina as a result of the storm.
“Our state took a gut punch, Mr. President, and our people are still reeling,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “We've lost 27 lives, officially, so far and some more are under investigation, and we mourn their loss. We have farmers who have lost significantly their crops. A lot of businesses are down. And of course people have lost their homes. We have about 10,000 people right now in shelters.”
Trump responded by using a golf reference to describe pending relief efforts.
“We're getting all teed up for a lot of money to come down to the area,” he said.
According to Trump's statement:
- Nearly 20,000 federal and military personnel are supporting the National Guard with relief efforts
- More than 3,000 people have been rescued
- More than 1.6 million meals have been delivered to North Carolina, with an additional 400,000 meals ready for South Carolina
- 1.2 million customers have had power restored
Trump, however, said he expected “a rough two weeks” in the aftermath of the storm.
“People don't realize how a very difficult phase is beginning today with the beautiful sunshine," he said.
North Carolina is still dealing with significant flooding as rivers continue to rise in the aftermath of Florence's heavy rain, and officials have warned residents to be cautious about returning home.
“Some of the flooding is actually epic, hard to believe," Trump said. "And we've seen all the pictures where houses are literally covered beyond the roof. You don't even know there is a house there.”
Trump will visit North Carolina and tour areas impacted by Hurricane Florence today
President Trump will meet North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for a briefing on recovery efforts from Hurricane Florence on Wednesday morning. They will then tour areas impacted by the hurricane.
Trump thanked disaster relief workers in a video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday morning, and said that Hurricane Florence was “one of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water.”
Two "detainees" drowned in a law enforcement van trapped in South Carolina floodwaters
Two detained women who were being transported by law enforcement Tuesday were killed when the vehicle they were riding in was overtaken by floodwaters in South Carolina.
The Horry County Sheriff's Office was transporting the individuals from facilities in Conway, just north of Charleston along South Carolina's coast, to a hospital farther inland, when the vehicle they were riding in was submerged, authorities said Tuesday.
The two sheriff's deputies traveling in the vehicle tried to rescue the victims, Holden said, but were unable to open the doors as floodwaters rose rapidly. The deputies were rescued from the top of the van by a team of first responders.
Read more here.
—Michelle Broder Van Dyke
Hurricane Florence has caused hog poop lagoons to breach and overflow
At least two hog waste lagoons in North Carolina have been breached; two others have been damaged; and several others have overflowed and flooded due to Hurricane Florence, raising activists' concerns about health and environmental hazards.
The two lagoon breaches occurred on farms in Duplin County and Sampson County, Megan Thorpe, a spokesperson for North Carolina Environmental Quality, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. Two others have structural damage, but the extent is unclear.
At least 13 other swine lagoons have overflowed, nine are flooded, and around 55 are on the brink of overflowing, as of Tuesday afternoon, according to NCEQ.
Read more here.
Rising floodwaters are still a major concern in North Carolina
Rainfall from what remains of Hurricane Florence continues to cause widespread flooding in North Carolina, where residents have been watching Cape Fear River swell to dangerous levels.
The river is expected to reach a record height on Tuesday when it crests at about 62 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The flooding point of the river is 35 feet.
"I just can't believe it, but the Lord has a plan,” Craig Williams, his property in Fayetteville soaked by floodwaters, told BuzzFeed News.
Everything on his first floor was moved up 4 feet, but he is worried about further flooding.
"This is a record-breaker, more than Matthew,” he said, referring to the Category 5 storm that hit the East Coast in 2016.
Still, he said everyone’s trying to keep their spirits up. On Tuesday, he helped stage a cookout to feed onlookers.
"We've got high spirits,” Williams said. “We know this is ground zero for the river and knew people would want to do a viewing of it.”
Among those keeping an eye on the river was Brain Carter, from south of Fayetteville in the Beaver Dam area. He and his wife lost power for a few days, but it returned Sunday.
"The one thing that helped everyone this time is there's more advanced warning, the state was more prepared,” he said. “They did a good job. "
The rainfall has caused more than just flooding, however. The city of Greensboro said Tuesday that an estimated 63,000 gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed from a sanitary sewer main over the weekend and in a tributary of the Cape Fear River basin.
Trump will reportedly travel to North Carolina and South Carolina on Wednesday
The president is expected to visit areas that have been impacted by the hurricane, sources told CNN.
He is set to fly into Myrtle Beach in South Carolina on Wednesday morning, the Post and Courier, citing sources, reported. It is unclear which other areas he will be visiting. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump on Tuesday praised his administration's efforts during Florence, saying that they were doing a "great job."
In the same tweet, he attacked anyone who might question the federal response to the storm, saying that at "some point" Democrats will begin lying about the government "not doing a good job."
Death toll from Florence rises to 32 as major flooding continues across multiple states
The number of deaths attributed to Hurricane Florence and its aftermath continued to rise Monday, with officials saying the storm has claimed at least 32 lives across three different states.
North Carolina Emergency Management confirmed to BuzzFeed News Monday evening that 25 people had been killed in the state since Florence made landfall Friday. The victims ranged in age from a 3-month-old boy, who died when a tree collapsed on a mobile home, to a 77-year-old man, who had a heart attack while checking on dogs during the storm.
In South Carolina, at least six people have died so far as a result of the storm.
Also Monday, one person died in Virginia when tornadoes swept through Midlothian, a community in Chesterfield County. The tornadoes were driven by the weakening Florence as it moved north and destroyed multiple buildings, flipped cars, and uprooted trees.
—Jim Dalrymple II
Stunning images show massive flooding on Interstate 40
Flooding has been a major challenge for North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
I-40 is one of 356 primary roads closed in North Carolina, Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon said a press conference Monday. There were 1,197 roads closed in total across the state as of early afternoon.
Officials advised residents to be cautious and obey all signs while driving. "Please do not drive through standing water or moving water," said North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen. "Your life is at risk. Please turn around. Don't drown.”
The body of 1-year-old Kaiden Lee Welch was found after floodwaters receded near New Salem, North Carolina
The body of 1-year-old Kaiden Lee Welch was found after floodwaters receded near the Richardson Creek in North Carolina.
The toddler and his mother were swept away in floodwaters from Richardson Creek after Lee drove around a barricade on Highway 218. She was driving to be with her family in Wadesboro, according to Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey.
“According to the mama, when [the car] stopped at the trees she was able to free herself from the vehicle, as well as the child. When she was able to get out of the vehicle, she lost hold of the child,” said Cathey. “The child was lost in that swift water.”
“I was holding his hand, trying to hold him, trying to pull him up. And it got to where I couldn’t hold on anymore and he let go,” Dazia Lee told Fox 46 in a TV interview. “I did everything I could from the moment I was pregnant, from the moment — to this moment I lost him. I did everything I could as a parent to save him and protect him.”
The New Salem Fire Department received an emergency call for a water rescue around 8 p.m. on Sunday and sent 24 firefighters to the scene. But they are not certified in swift water, so Assistant Fire Chief Chad Rorie said the Union County Sheriff’s Office requested help from Federal Emergency Management Agency, which later sent a team of 80 rescuers and three boats to the scene.
The car was facing nose down and wedged between trees when the New Salem firefighters arrived, with just a small portion of the rear window visible above the water. Lee was rescued around 11 p.m. on Sunday, but the rescuers were not able to immediately locate the boy.
Kaiden Lee Welch was found close the car on Monday morning, his body in between the bumper and a nearby tree. “The child was held underwater," said Cathey.
“This mama has suffered tragically when she lost a child,” said Cathey. “This is dangerous, these were dangerous times, driving through water where the roads are closed is dangerous for everyone.”
“The barricades were up there, whether someone else moved those barricades and she drove around them, I can’t say,” the sheriff added. “Highway Patrol is investigating that portion of it.”
It would be up to the Highway Patrol to determine whether to pursue criminal charges.
State officials urged drivers to stay off the roads after Hurricane Florence inundated the state with rainwater, causing rivers to overflow.
“Roads you think are safe can be washed away in a matter of minutes,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. He added the drivers should not go around barricades.
“We would like tell you — to the family — that we’re praying for them, for your loss,” said Rorie. “It shouldn’t happen.”
Nearly 500,000 people are without power in North Carolina
Seventeen people have died in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, the state's governor, Roy Cooper, said in a press conference Monday.
A spokesperson for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division confirmed to BuzzFeed News that six people have died in South Carolina — brining the total number of fatalities due to Hurricane Florence to 23.
Cooper called the effects of Hurricane Florence a "monumental disaster," saying that more than 484,000 people in the state are without power as of Monday afternoon. First responders have rescued more than 2,600 people and 300 animals, Cooper said.
He urged residents that even though the rain may have subsided, the soil is still saturated, and small amounts of rain can cause flash flooding.
"This is an epic storm that is still continuing because the rivers are rising in certain parts of our state," he said.
The governor said that rescuers were able to bring 23 truckloads of food, water, and other supplies to Wilmington — where access had been effectively cut off after rainfall Saturday night made the roads impassable.
The governor warned residents that roads remain extremely dangerous and urged people to stay off the streets.
"This storm's like a house guest who doesn't want to leave," he said.
The governor added that he is scheduled to meet with US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday. —Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
More than 800 people were rescued from New Bern, North Carolina, where officials estimate the storm has caused at least $6 million in damages
More than 800 people have been rescued in the city of New Bern, North Carolina, which was among the hardest hit during Hurricane Florence. Roughly 4,300 homes and 300 business were damaged or destroyed.
“This is a significant setback at the hands of Mother Nature, but we will prevail,” said city manager Mark Stephens at a press conference on Monday morning.
There were no known fatalities as the city began a detailed assessment of the damage on Sunday morning.
The city has identified at least $6 million in damages so far, and that number is expected to grow as officials complete the assessment, which could take several weeks.
Electricity has been restored to 80% of customers in New Bern, according to Stephens. About 4,500 people were still without power due to storm damage. More than 150 utility professionals have come from around the state and the country to help with repairs in New Bern. “Please be patient about the electricity,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sabrina Bengel.
Roughly 1,500 people have been asked to conserve water as city officials worked to restore systems that were damaged or taken offline during the storm. That damage was isolated and was not a threat to water treatment systems, said Stephens.
More than 800 people were rescued from the city during the storm by swift-water teams, parks and recreation staff, and volunteers.
The citywide curfew was lifted as of 7 a.m. on Monday morning but may be reinstated for the most damaged parts of the city, including the downtown, Woodrow, and Riverside areas.
Schools are expected to be closed for the rest of the week, and officials plan to work with surrounding communities to find schools for those displaced by the storm.
Bengel thanked Alderwoman Jameesha Harris, who “personally went to Trent Court, pulling out people in waist-high water.” Harris and her husband rescued 13 families, according to CBS. Bengel also thanked rescue workers and city officials for working “through the dead of the night.”
“This has been an extraordinary event,” said Bengel. “But we’re an extraordinary community.”
Relief efforts are being coordinated by Religious Community Services, and donations can be made at continuetogive.com/florencerelief.
A 3-month-old child died after a tree landed on a mobile home during Hurricane Florence, bringing the storm's death toll to at least 17
The death toll from Hurricane Florence rose to at least 17 Sunday, as rains continued to drench North and South Carolina, flooding cities and littering roadways with felled trees and debris.
Officials in Gaston County, North Carolina, reported Sunday that a 3-month-old child was killed after a tree landed on a mobile home amid thrashing wind and rain.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, state public safety agencies said that at least two motorists died Sunday as a result of the storm, including the driver of a truck that struck an overpass in Kershaw County and a driver who lost control of a pickup track after hitting standing water on a roadway.
Although Florence has weakened from a hurricane to a tropical depression, authorities have warned that the storm's impact will likely worsen. From the Carolina coast to more mountainous areas further inland, communities have become increasing imperiled by floodwaters that are only expected to rise in the coming days.
“This storm has never been more dangerous than it is right now,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news briefing, adding that all residents should be prepared for flash flooding. As of Sunday, the National Weather Service had issued alerts for every county in the state.
Additional evacuations were ordered across inland North Carolina Sunday, and an estimated 1,000 first responders fanned out across the state to retrieve residents stranded in flooded regions. Along the coast, the city of Wilmington, with a population of about 120,000, was effectively cut off from the rest of the state, after rainfall Saturday night made roadways into and out of the city impassable.
In Fayetteville, where the Cape Fear River is already above flooding levels — and is not expected to crest until Tuesday, at 62 feet — mandatory evacuations were ordered Sunday, and a curfew was put into effect until further notice. Further inland, the US Forest Service warned that heavy rain had already produced mudslides and flooding along mountain roads.
Statewide, Florence has already unleashed 40 inches of rain on North Carolina as of Sunday night, and 20 inches on South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
The agency predicted late Sunday that the storm would continue to produce "widespread heavy rains over much of North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina," and would also begin to affect parts of Virginia and West Virginia as it moves north into next week.
The Trump administration will send a message to every US cellphone Thursday to test a new emergency alert system
In the first test of a national alert system, the Trump administration will send a message to US cellphones Thursday with the headline "Presidential Alert." The system, which has never been tested nationwide, is designed to allow the White House to warn the public of a national emergency, and messages can be sent at the discretion of the president.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that all US phones should be expected to sound a loud tone and unique vibration when the alert is sent at 2:18 p.m. ET on Thursday. Cellphone owners will not be able to opt out of receiving the message.
According to a FEMA statement, the text will read:
This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required. Two minutes after the message is sent, a second alert will be broadcast on national radio and television stations, interrupting programming for about a minute.
The alerts are the result of a law signed by President Barack Obama requiring FEMA to enable the president to send nationwide cellphone alerts about national emergencies, specifically "a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety."
The wireless emergency alerts have been used since 2012 to warn residents in localized areas about weather emergencies, natural disasters, missing children, and wanted criminals. But cellphone users can opt out of these types of messages.
The system gained notoriety in January after emergency management officials in Hawaii sent a false missile alert to more than a million people statewide, causing mass panic. In response to the incident, the US Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules to ensure more accurate and geographically precise alerts.
—Michelle Broder Van Dyke
Images show the destruction of Florence and the efforts to rescue and recover
FEMA workers evacuated more than 120 people from an assisted living facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina
FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina — Wrapped in a white blanket, a small woman with gray hair was rolled out in a wheelchair from the front hall of Cedar Creek Assisted Living, located on the outskirts of Fayetteville, North Carolina, to an evacuation bus waiting in the flooded parking lot.
One member of FEMA’s Nebraska Task Force 1 unit held her feet up off the wet ground. Another from the search and rescue squad pushed the wheelchair, and a third held a big blue-and-white striped umbrella, slightly storm-battered, in an effort to shelter the elderly woman from Hurricane Florence’s constant rains. An iteration of this scene was repeated for the facility’s at least 124 residents, many of whom are elderly and have severe disabilities, between 7 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, Sept. 15.
“I’ve never seen so much help in my life,” said Cherie Readus, the nursing home’s head administrator, when FEMA’s multiple vans full of responders drove up to start the evacuation to Shiloh Methodist, a nearby church.
Some 42,000 homes have been damaged in New Bern, North Carolina, because of Florence
Residents of New Bern, North Carolina, are being urged to stay indoors while line workers try to restore power to around 6,000 homes.
"When you're riding around, you're keeping somebody from getting their power back on. Please don't do that," said Mayor Dana Outlaw on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday morning, adding that if people want to help, there are several groups, including a fireman's association, leading organized assistance efforts.
Outlaw said 42,000 homes have been damaged, some of them severely, along with 300 businesses in New Bern, and 1,200 residents are in shelters.
He said President Trump called him yesterday.
FEMA Administrator Brock Long said on Meet the Press that the agency is focusing on search and rescue operations at this stage.
"You've got a strong governor in Gov. Cooper, and we're meeting their demands. It will be ugly, but we'll get through it," he said.
Asked about President Trump's comments calling the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico a conspiracy against him, Long cast doubt on the official death toll estimate of 2,975. That number was independently calculated by George Washington University researchers and declared as the official death toll by the Puerto Rican government in August.
Long said, inaccurately, that the Puerto Rican government's original death toll of 64 did not include deaths caused indirectly by the hurricane. He mentioned an increase in spousal abuse after the hurricane but did not explain what that had to do with the death toll.
"You might see more deaths indirectly as time goes on ... Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can’t blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anyone,” he said.
Long also defended himself when asked about allegations that he inappropriately used FEMA cars to travel back and forth from DC to his home in North Carolina.
"It is my understanding that maybe some policies were not developed around these vehicles that we will get cleared up and push forward," he said.
He denied reports that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had urged him to resign before the storm.
A man and woman in South Carolina died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and a woman hit a downed tree with her vehicle, bringing the death toll to at least 14
Local reports, citing the Horry County Coroner's Office, said that the couple, both in their sixties, died as a result of gas emitted from a generator in their home.
Florence has now been downgraded to a tropical depression — but huge amounts of rain and flash flooding still present deadly risks
Tropical Storm Florence is now Tropical Depression Florence, according to the National Hurricane Center, but officials across the Carolinas are still warning of potential loss of life, while some say the worst may be yet to come.
Zack Taylor, a meteorologist at the National Weather Center in Maryland, told Reuters that despite its downgrading, it was "still a catastrophic, life-threatening storm."
"This storm is still deadly and dangerous and it's expected to turn northward later today into Virginia and the mid-Atlantic," he said.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said that in some places across the state the rain is being measured not in inches but in feet, while warning that water levels could continue to rise for some days.
Thousands of residents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, were told to evacuate by Sunday afternoon, or else let their next of kin know that they planned to stay.
City Mayor Mitch Colvin told a press conference: "If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible.
"The worst is yet to come."
Heavy rains from Florence caused a coal ash mound to erode at a former coal plant in North Carolina
Record rains from Tropical Storm Florence have eroded part of a coal ash mound at a landfill in Wilmington, Duke Energy said Saturday.
The electricity company, which services North Carolina and South Carolina, said stormwater may have come into contact with coal ash from a landfill at the company's Sutton Power Plant, causing a slope failure and erosion that displaced about 2,000 cubic yards of material.
Most of the ash was collected in a ditch that surrounds the landfill, however, it was possible that some reached the nearby Sutton Lake.
The incident, however, did not pose a threat to public health or the environment, the company said.
"We have a high level of confidence public health and the environment remain well protected," Duke Energy spokesperson Paige Sheehan told BuzzFeed News, adding that coal ash is not hazardous. "We have taken steps to manage it appropriately."
Coal operations at the plant were shut down in 2013, and the facility now houses a natural gas plant, according to Duke Energy's website. The company is currently excavating two ash basins at the site.
—Stephanie K. Baer
Three more deaths have been linked to Hurricane Florence
The North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed that three additional deaths in the state are linked to Hurricane Florence, bringing the total number of storm-related deaths in both Carolinas to 12.
The fatalities include an 81-year-old man in Wayne County who fell and struck his head while packing to evacuate on Friday, according to a statement from the state Department of Public Safety.
A husband and wife who died in a house fire in Cumberland County Friday were also counted in the storm-related death toll. —Stephanie K. Baer
Here's how much rain is still to come from Florence
This map shows how much rain is forecasted for North Carolina in the next day.
Florence is now the wettest tropical cyclone North Carolina has ever seen
Around 30 inches of rain have dumped on North Carolina's coast, making Florence the wettest tropical cyclone on record for the state.
Preliminary rainfall totals showed 30.59 inches of rain had fallen in the coastal town of Swansboro as of midday Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Other areas have seen more than 20 inches of rain so far and more is on the way.
Parts of North Carolina could still see an additional 15 to 20 inches with storm totals reaching between 30 and 40 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"This rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding," the center said.
—Stephanie K. Baer
Three people were killed in Duplin County, North Carolina
Authorities confirmed the deaths of three people in Duplin County, North Carolina, on Saturday, taking the Florence death toll to at least nine people.
“As of 1:30 p.m. on September 15, 2018, Duplin County has had 2 fatalities due to flash flooding and swift water on roadways,” posted the Duplin County Sheriff's Office on its Facebook page.
The Sheriff's office then confirmed via Facebook Messenger to BuzzFeed News that the county's death toll had risen to three, all storm-related.
The three deaths were from separate incidents of flooded roadways: One occurred on Bowden Road, another on North Williams Road, and the third on Highway 111. No further identifying information about the victims has yet been released.
The storm death toll rose to 6 after a woman was killed in South Carolina
A woman was killed after her vehicle hit a tree downed by Florence on Friday evening, the first storm-related death in South Carolina and the sixth overall.
The 61-year-old female from Union, South Carolina, was driving on Highway 18 around 9:40 p.m. on Friday when the roof of her car struck a tree that had partially fallen across the road, Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol told BuzzFeed News.
“She died at the scene. She was the only occupant in the vehicle and she was wearing a seatbelt,” explained Hughes.
A man and his kitten, named “Survivor,” are rescued from the floods
Robert Simmons Jr., who has lived in New Bern all 40 years of his life, was rescued from the floods on Friday along with his kitten, who he said is named “Survivor.”
The powerful photo of Simmons and Survivor, both looking wet and exhausted, has gone viral.
“We done been through Bertha, Fran, Irene, Matthew,” Simmons told The News & Observer from a boat. “And this is the worst it’s ever been, in this part right here.”
Simmons had to leave his father behind in their home because “he wanted to wait it out,” he said.
“I didn’t want him to wait it out,” he said. “Yeah. Didn’t want him to wait it out. Man, it’s bad.”
President Trump has issued a disaster declaration in response to Tropical Storm Florence
The president has ordered federal aid to be given to people affected by Florence in North Carolina, the White House announced Saturday.
Funding will supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts, and will be available for residents in eight counties across the state.
“Assistance 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 the disaster,” the White House said.
It added that further assistance may be given after officials have carried out damage assessments in other areas.
More “catastrophic flooding” is predicted as Florence makes its way inland
Tropical Storm Florence weakened to maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as heavy rain continued to lash the central Carolinas Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported.
In a 5 a.m. advisory notice, it warned that “life-threatening” storm surges will continue along parts of the North Carolina coast and along the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.
It also warned of landslides in the southern and central Appalachians, as well as “catastrophic” flash floods and river flooding from western North Carolina to far eastern West Virginia next week, as the storm turns north toward the Ohio Valley.
At least five people have been killed in the wake of Florence, which was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Friday, including a mother and infant killed by a falling tree in North Carolina.
As of 6 a.m. ET Saturday, the storm had caused more than 880,000 power outages across the Carolinas.
A fifth person has been confirmed dead after falling amid strong winds
A fifth death related to Hurricane Florence has been confirmed in Kinston, North Carolina.
Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail said the body of a 77-year-old man was discovered at 8 a.m. Friday by family at his home.
"It is believed his death was caused when he was blown down by the wind when he went out to check on his hunting dogs," Dail said in a statement.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the North Carolina coast at 7:15 a.m. with 90 mph winds. It weakened to a tropical storm by the afternoon.
—Stephanie K. Baer
North Carolina residents further inland are seeking shelter at this Wake Forest high school
WAKE FOREST, North Carolina — Marge Yost drove up to Knightdale High School with her four kids in tow Thursday in hopes of finding shelter before the storm hit. They found more luck at their next stop — Heritage High School in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which had just opened to meet the growing demand.
“I only came because we have three really tall pine trees” next to the house and “they are not in good shape,” said Yost, whose family is from the nearby town of Garner.
Fallen tree limbs knocked out their cable satellite only a month ago. She got a new one within the past week, she said, “just in time for the storm.”
Yost and her children are among just 34 people and two dogs that had checked into Heritage, a site that can house more than 300 people, as of Friday afternoon.
The shelter was opened to help people streaming out of Hyde, New Bern, and other places along the coast, Antonia Pedroza, the facility’s manager, told BuzzFeed News. But so far, all the residents have come in from Wake County, where the state capital Raleigh is located.
“Mostly, it’s people who are too afraid to stay home,” Pedroza told BuzzFeed News. Some lived through Hurricane Fran and didn’t want to go through the same experience again, she added.
The shelter could fill up when the rivers start flooding, or the power is knocked out, shelter worker Ann Chavez said.
Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it slowly moves inland
Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon as it slowly moved across inland North Carolina.
The storm, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, was packing 70 mph winds and was still expected to bring life-threatening storm surges and dangerous flooding to the region, the National Hurricane Center said.
“Right now our focus is on saving lives and protecting people,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said during a press conference. “We are still in the thick of the storm.”
Some parts of southeastern North Carolina have already received upward of 10 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm surge warning was discontinued for south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and north of Salvo, North Carolina, as Florence moved west.
The hurricane warning for South Santee River, South Carolina, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, has been replaced with a tropical storm warning.
The tropical storm warning has been discontinued north of Cape Hatteras. Storm Surge warnings remained in effect for Myrtle Beach to Salvo and for Pamlico Sound, North Carolina.
The tropical storm warning also remained in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Hatteras and for Pamlico Sound.
—Stephanie K. Baer
Trump will visit the Carolinas next week
President Trump is scheduled to visit the areas affected by Hurricane Florence sometime next week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.
The president will visit the area "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts," she added.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
DHS says there will be no immigration enforcement during hurricane evacuations or at shelters
Shelters and evacuation operations associated to Hurricane Florence will be off-limits when it comes to immigration enforcement, federal officials said in a statement posted online Friday.
"Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and safety," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. "In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Florence, except in the event of a serious public safety."
The announcement came after the hurricane made landfall Friday morning and was similar to others made by the federal agency during natural disasters in the past two years, including Hurricane Harvey in Aug. 2017, Hurricane Irma in Sept. 2017, and California wildfires in August.
While the statement posted Friday differed in language from previous announcements, a DHS spokeswoman told BuzzFeed News the agency would not be conducting routine non-criminal enforcement during the storm in the affected areas. The pause in immigration enforcement activities would be similar to that of previous events, she said.
Two more deaths have been reported in the wake of Hurricane Florence's landfall in North Carolina
Two more people have been confirmed dead in North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence, bringing the total to at least four.
A woman in Hampstead, which was under mandatory evacuation, died of an apparent heart attack, according to Tammy Proctor, spokesperson for Pender County.
Proctor told BuzzFeed News emergency personnel tried to clear the roadway of trees and debris to reach her, but during the operation a tree fell through the emergency vehicle.
"Because of the height of the storm and the danger of the winds they had to suspend operations," Proctor said.
Additional information was not immediately available.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's office also confirmed a fourth person was killed in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator.
Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail said the person, a 78-year-old man, was electrocuted when he tried to connect two extension cords outside in the rain. His body was discovered by family members.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm," Cooper said in a statement. "Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. Be extremely careful and stay alert."
—Stephanie K. Baer
A North Carolina mother and infant become the first fatalities caused by Florence
The first two casualties of Hurricane Florence have been confirmed in Wilmington, police said in a tweet Friday afternoon.
A mother and infant were killed after a tree collapsed on their Mercer Avenue home this morning, trapping them inside. Police said that the father had been rescued from the collapsed building by emergency services personnel and transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center but did not provide any information on his condition.
Per local media reports, the tree fell on the house around 9:30 a.m.
More than 360 people were rescued in New Bern
More than 360 people have been rescued in New Bern since Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina city.
Crews were able to bring down the number of people awaiting rescue to 40, but as weather conditions began to deteriorate, more calls for rescue came in, city spokesperson Colleen Roberts told BuzzFeed News
She estimated there were about 100 people awaiting rescue as of Friday afternoon.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
The National Weather Service forecasts “record” flooding from Hurricane Florence
The National Weather Service is warning of “life threatening” floods in North Carolina and South Carolina rivers, starting this weekend and into next week, as rains continue to fall from Hurricane Florence.
With up to 40 inches of rain forecast in some locales, the latest river forecast sees nine river locations at risk for major flooding, in some cases setting flood marks feet above past records.
“We could be dealing with flood that's as bad or worse than the effects of Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd's in some of our basins,” Richard Neuherz of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a note accompanying the forecast. Much of the flooding is expected in rivers inland of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near where the storm made landfall.
Major floods are forecast for the Cape Fear, Lumber, Waccanaw, Black Creek, Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers. Crests of the flooding are projected from Sunday to Tuesday. Dozens of homes and miles of highway near the Cape Fear River are expected to be inundated, with the river cresting at 25.7 feet near Burgaw, North Carolina. That’s more than three feet above the past record.
“Of course, this all depends on how and where the rain really falls versus what we're forecasting,” Neuherz said. “If the axis of heaviest observed rainfall or the amounts are off by a little, it will affect how the rivers respond.”
The next flood forecast is expected in the early afternoon on Saturday.
As Florence hit, zookeepers sheltered these vulnerable flamingos indoors
Flamingos at the Riverbanks Zoo And Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, normally reside in an outdoor sanctuary. But with historic flooding in the forecast for Hurricane Florence, zoo workers moved the birds indoors, ferrying them to the zoo's animal hospital from their normal habitat via golf carts.
A photographer documented the transfer of more than a dozen birds.
First, zookeepers rounded the birds up in their pen.
Then the flamingos rode in golf carts to their temporary home.
Susan O'Caine, Riverbanks' director of communications, said half of the zoo's 300 birds live outdoors year round. Those birds were moved to new enclosures with sandbagged doors and windows to protect them from flooding.
Zookeepers moved the other half of the birds into the indoor sections of their habitats.
A river runs through the 170-acre park, which increases the risk for flooding, but O'Caine said an animal has never died during previous hurricanes or flooding at Riverbanks.
Some staff members are staying with the animals to keep them safe during the hurricane.
The zoo also posted a video of the flamingos being moved.
500,000 North Carolina residents are without power
Gov. Roy Cooper said the hurricane was "wreaking havoc" in the state with nearly 600,000 residents without electricity on Friday. About 200,000 people were also being housed in over 100 shelters, he added.
The governor warned that "relentless rains" would continue through the weekend and urged residents not to go out in the storm.
He also said roads across North Carolina were underwater and that rivers — which are set to have record-level flooding — will continue to rise for days after the rain stops.
North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said they expect to see 500 to 1,000 year flooding events from Wilmington to Charlotte.
BuzzFeed News spoke to some residents who left their homes to seek shelter at a hotel in Raleigh.
Lonnie and Jeremy McLean, along with their young daughter, told BuzzFeed News they decided to wait out the storm at the Hampton Inn & Suites Raleigh Downtown rather than at their home as a precaution.
They were also joined by other family members from the area.
“Better to be safe than sorry,” Jeremy McLean said.
— Zahra Hirji and Tasneem Nashrulla
Wilmington residents are afraid for their homes as Hurricane Florence batters the town
RALEIGH, North Carolina — Wilmington residents who evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence are worried about what they might find when they return home.
"Our biggest fear is getting back home," Wilmington resident Karen Dries told BuzzFeed News at a hotel in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she is waiting out the storm with her husband and mother.
The family fled Wilmington on Wednesday after their son-in-law, who works in emergency management, told them, “You need to get out of here.”
But Dries is worried that road closures will keep them stuck in Raleigh, and she’s concerned about what they’ll find at home once they get there.
Three-fourths of residents in New Hanover County, where Wilmington is located, were without power around 9 a.m. local time, according to a report on PowerOutage.us.
Dries and her husband, Paul, moved from the Raleigh area to Wilmington just three months ago, and she says that their house, which is new brick construction, should be fine. She heard from a friend that their street still had electricity, but she worries that power outages in the city may last for weeks.
Power has gone out twice for Spencer Rogers, a scientist with North Carolina Sea Grant, who lives in Wilmington and decided to ride out the storm at home. Rogers told BuzzFeed News that he lost power for the first time early last night, and the electric company was able to restore it for about an hour before the power went out again.
“We heard it blow a second time,” Rogers said in an email. He expects that, at this point, the power could be down for the duration of the storm. There is “too much wind to get out the generator,” he said, “But at least the gas burner is making hot coffee."
“It’s been insane,” Steven Pfaff, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, told BuzzFeed News. “It is just getting too dangerous” to do some outside observations, he said. The instrument detected a wind gust of 105 miles per hour earlier in the morning.
The team has been working shifts to issue flash flood alerts, forecasts, and to communicate with emergency managers on the ground about local conditions. They’re prepared to be there for days, but they’re relying on a backup generator since the power went out.
"We’re like a bunker right now,” said Pfaff. “We still have communications, which is good.”
—Zahra Hirji and Otillia Steadman
Flooding leaves more than 100 New Bern residents stranded
Around 100 to 150 residents of New Bern, North Carolina, are waiting to be rescued after the city was flooded following Hurricane Florence's storm surge, officials said.
Authorities have already rescued 200 people since the flooding began, assuring the remaining stranded residents that help was on the way. The city sent a tweet saying there were two out-of-state FEMA teams in the city for "swift water rescue" and that more were on their way.
"You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city said.
A mandatory evacuation order was issued for residents of New Bern on Tuesday and the city's mayor declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.
The small city was battered by the storm surge with officials predicting approximately 9–13 feet storm surge from the hurricane. "This could be life-threatening, especially in low lying areas," according to information released by the city.
Hurricane Florence has made landfall on the North Carolina coast
The eye of Hurricane Florence has made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said Friday morning.
The center of the storm hit about six miles east of Wilmington at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told CNN's New Day that the entire city was out of power.
"Trees are down. We're getting these wind gusts now that are coming in at 90 mph, a lot of calls for emergencies, but we're not able to get these first responders out," he said, explaining that they will assess the situation as quickly as they can when it is safe to do so.
"We're getting the flooding, we're getting exactly what meteorologists said we were going to get," he added.
"It's a big storm. It's moving very slow, so this is going to be upon us for approximately 16 hours. I have lived here all my life and I've never seen a hurricane that is literally going to be with us for two days."
As of 8:10 a.m., there were more than 422,000 without power in North Carolina and another 15,000 in South Carolina.
Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall on the North Carolina coast
The eyewall of Hurricane Florence was approaching the North Carolina coast Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service said.
Reporters posted footage of torrential rainfall on Twitter as the hurricane made its way toward Wilmington.
In a 6 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center reported that its center was about 10 miles east of Wilmington, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
A NOAA observing site at Cape Lookout, about 120 miles up the coast from Wilmington, recorded a sustained wind of 59 mph and a gust of 79 mph.
The hurricane has caused more than 320,000 power outages across North Carolina, according to the state's Department of Public Safety.
Hurricane conditions have reached the North Carolina coast
Hurricane-force winds were reported on the North Carolina coast Thursday night as the center of Florence closed in.
A NOAA observing site at Cape Lookout recorded sustained winds of 83 mph and a gust of up to 106 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Data from aircraft showed winds near the eye were at 100 mph.
"Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the coast, with slow weakening expected after the center moves inland or meanders near the coast," the center said.
The National Guard and various active military were preparing for the storm at a joint command center outside Raleigh. So far, there are thousands of National Guard members and active military across the storm region ready to deploy.
“We’ve learned from previous disasters that we have to be talking together,” Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo, a press officer for the North Carolina National Guard, told BuzzFeed News.
—Zahra Hirji and Stephanie K. Baer
More than 100,000 people are without power in the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence approaches
More than 100,000 customers were experiencing power outages in North Carolina and South Carolina Thursday night as Hurricane Florence made its way to land.
Duke Energy, which estimated that between 1 million to 3 million customers could be without electricity as a result of the storm, reported that nearly 49,000 customers in the two states were affected by outages.
North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives said upward of 51,900 customers were without power. Dominion Energy reported 496 customers in North Carolina were experiencing outages.
—Stephanie K. Baer
Two South Carolina detention centers in hurricane evacuation zones will not relocate inmates
Two detention centers within South Carolina's mandatory evacuation zones said they will not relocate inmates — as millions of people evacuate the region ahead of Hurricane Florence's expected landfall on Friday.
Inmates at the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County — which is in a flood zone and under mandatory evacuation — will not be evacuated, a spokesperson for the county's sheriff's office told BuzzFeed News.
The detention center houses 1,047 men and 119 women, according to the facility's website.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Heavy rain from Hurricane Florence has begun dumping on the Carolina coast
Heavy rains and strong winds from Hurricane Florence began pummeling the Carolinas Thursday afternoon as the outer bands of the storm reached the coast.
The Category 2 hurricane is expected to make landfall Friday, but coastal areas in North Carolina and South Carolina will see continuous rainfall and could see life-threatening storm surge, flooding, and damaging winds before then, the National Weather Service said.
A weather station in Cape Lookout, North Carolina, recently recorded sustained tropical storm-force winds of 68 mph, gusting to 85 mph, the weather service said. Another observation site in Davis reported winds of 61 mph gusting to 67 mph.
Water levels are rising along portions of North Carolina's coast as the storm approaches.
The hurricane is expected to bring up to 40 inches of rain to areas along the Carolina coast and up to 20 inches to the rest of the two states and southwest Virginia.
Brief tornadoes are possible as the storm makes its way inland, the weather service said.
—Stephanie K. Baer
Shelters are filling up fast ahead of Florence’s landfall
KNIGHTDALE, North Carolina — A couple hundred people seeking shelter from Hurricane Florence are already set up with cots in the gymnasiums and hallways of Knightdale High School in northern Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We have 252 people,” Petra Hager, Wake County regional center director and the on-shift shelter supervisor, told BuzzFeed News, but then even more people came in as she continued to talk. The shelter is set up to house 314 people. “I think we are very good right now,” said Hager.
But they are starting to run low on some supplies, such as blankets, hygiene products, and pet crates, according to Evangela Batts, one of the shelter workers coming from Wake County Health Services. (There were multiple cats, multiple dogs, one hamster, and one guinea pig.) And if the weather gets so bad that they can’t go out to use the bathroom, she said, “What’s our contingency plan?”
So far, people have come in by bus and car from Wilmington, North Carolina, a city in the bullseye of the Category 2 storm’s current path, as well from the Outer Banks and Oslo County.
“They are taking good care of us,” Brenda Lewis, 65, told BuzzFeed News.
“They welcomed us with open arms,” added Connie Lewis, 62. The two ladies are from Morehead City, North Carolina, an area under mandatory evacuation. They got to the shelter the night it opened on Tuesday. Everything we need is here: medicine, food, and a place to sleep, Brenda said.
The shelter operations at Knightdale High School are being run by Wake County, which has set up shelters at two other schools in the region: Southeast Raleigh High School and Garner Magnet School. That’s on top of the many other schools, churches, and other makeshift shelters set up by Red Cross and local partners.
During a brief tour of the school, Hager pointed out the two gymnasiums full of cots. Adults and kids were lounging in their cots, talking, sleeping, or watching a movie. A few kids were playing soccer in the back, and one girl was jumping rope.
Besides the cots, the shelter is providing blankets, pillows, towels, and toilets to people that haven’t brought their own. They are also providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the school’s cafeteria.
In the hallways, a table was set up with games such as Sorry! and Clue. There was also an in-house movie theater that has been showing movies for the kids in the late afternoon and early evenings.
During our conversation, Hager was repeatedly interrupted with requests from guests and staff. “Someone is requesting a private room, what do I say?” “Is there a basketball to give some boys that want to play on the courts outside?” “Can you help push my wheelchair down the call?” “Can you show me where my cot is?”
“Too many things,” Hager said, before jumping into a closed-door meeting with staff.
Heavy rains from Hurricane Florence are expected to lash coastal counties of North Carolina within the next few hours.
Here's a running list of hoaxes and scams about Hurricane Florence
Just like last year with hurricanes Irma and Harvey, propagators of online hoaxes are using the important news event to spread misinformation. BuzzFeed News is keeping track of the fakes.
Here’s how climate change put Hurricane Florence on steroids
Across much of the Carolinas, people who haven’t already fled are bracing for massive rainfall from Hurricane Florence, with more than 40 inches of rain in some places. They can blame climate change for much of that misery, according to a novel new study that estimates how much climate change has “supercharged” the hurricane.
Florence, now a Category 2 storm, is slated to make landfall early Friday morning, but the Carolinas could start feeling the impacts on Thursday.
The study, led by researchers at Stony Brook University in New York and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, is a bold new step for the science of climate attribution, which assesses global warming’s fingerprints on extreme weather events.
Read the full story here.
Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 2 storm but may still cause life-threatening damage
Hurricane Florence weakened to a Category 2 storm but is still expected to cause a life-threatening storm surge as it approaches the coasts of the Carolinas.
As of Thursday morning the center of the storm was about 170 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and the maximum sustained winds dropped to near 110 mph and are not expected to change, according to the National Weather Service.
"This is a life-threatening situation," a Thursday advisory from the National Weather Service states. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions."
The Carolinas will start feeling the effects of the storm Thursday and landfall is expected on Friday. Parts of the Carolina coast are slated to see 20 to 40 inches of rainfall.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
This is where rain from Hurricane Florence could trigger big inland floods
Current forecasts predict that Florence could drop more than 40 inches of rain over parts of the Carolinas in the coming days.
That likely means dangerous flooding inland, as well as inundation of low-lying coastal areas by storm surges. “Our greatest concern is flooding,” Nicholas Petro, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh, North Carolina, told BuzzFeed News. His team tracks the weather for 13 counties in central and eastern parts of the state.
The initial concern away from the coast is flash flooding from excessive rainfall. The map above shows zones that the NWS forecasts will face risks of flash flooding from rain on Friday, Sept. 14.
—Peter Aldous and Zahra Hirji
The National Weather Service warns Hurricane Florence will likely be "the storm of a lifetime"
The National Weather Service warned on Wednesday that Hurricane Florence, which is expected to slam into the East Coast later this week, “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.”
The hurricane, which has been downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 2, is expected to make landfall Thursday through Friday, causing catastrophic damage from winds and flooding. The storm is forecast to linger over the Carolinas through the weekend, increasing the potential for continued flooding.
More than 10 million people in the region are under hurricane and storm watches and warnings, according to the weather service.
Read more here.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos and Stephanie K. Baer
Hurricane Florence looks a lot like these past three deadly hurricanes
Hurricane history has a dire warning about Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 storm with sustained winds around 140 mph, aimed right at North Carolina and South Carolina.
Upgraded in strength on Monday, and threatening to become a Category 5 storm, the major hurricane has prompted evacuations from coastal counties in both Carolinas and Virginia. Current projections place North Carolina in the storm’s bullseye.
“Wherever you live in North Carolina, you need to get ready for this storm now and you need to evacuate if asked to,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. He cited storm surges along the coast, flooding from rains inland, and high winds statewide as reasons for concern about life-threatening dangers of the hurricane.
Cooper has good reason to worry, based on past major hurricanes that have hit his state and those nearby hard, all doing damage in different, severe ways that took lives and cost billions of dollars in damages.
Read the full story here.
—Dan Vergano and Zahra Hirji
These maps show where Florence’s storm surge may hit hardest
Storm surge forecasts predict historic flooding for beaches in Hurricane Florence’s path, up to 20 feet above normal sea level, as the storm is headed for landfall on the Carolinas’ coasts Friday.
The National Hurricane Center declared Florence a Category 4 storm with wind speeds above 140 mph Monday, aimed directly at Wilmington, North Carolina, with a possible landing anywhere from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Hatteras.
On Tuesday, storm surge warnings were issued from South Carolina to Virginia. These abnormally high waters that accompany some hurricanes can be deadly — the flooding they cause, together with rainfall, accounts for most hurricane deaths.
—Dan Vergano and Peter Aldous
Here is the latest predicted path for Hurricane Florence
Around a million people on the US Eastern Seaboard face evacuation as Hurricane Florence bears down on North Carolina. The storm is one of the most powerful to threaten the Atlantic Coast in decades.
The National Hurricane Center issues forecasts every three hours, and this map will update automatically. The line shows the most likely predicted path, the cone shows the uncertainty around that forecast, and the color is an estimate of the likelihood of that area experiencing hurricane-force winds — greater than 74 mph — over the next five days.