Rescues continue as Carolinas face rising floodwaters, days of relentless rain

As North Carolina residents navigated heavy rain and rising floodwaters that in some places could double the 10 to 20 inches that have fallen so far, neighboring South Carolina was bracing overnight for the brutal wallop of widespread flash flooding, mad, whipping wind and relentless rainfall that crept across the border into the eastern half of the state before dawn.

Florence, which weakened from a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall early Friday morning to a tropical storm, is expected by Saturday evening to be downgraded to a tropical depression — but the torrential rain shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

There were still north of 900,000 people without power in South Carolina and North Carolina combined early Saturday.

Dozens of North Carolina residents, as well as least nine animals, were rescued Friday night into early Saturday morning in the state’s third-largest county, Cateret, according to a county EMS spokesperson.

The 1,300-square-mile outcropping — home to about 65,000 people — is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.

Catastrophic flooding wreaked havoc on parts of eastern North Carolina, which sustained 2 feet of rain in some areas, and up to 40 inches in other hard-hit spots. Newport, North Carolina, reported 23.5 inches of rainfall just before midnight on Friday.

Forecasters are anticipating landslides near the Appalachians and near-record river flooding.

Flooding there is so heavy that rescue operations had to be suspended early Saturday morning until daylight. Meanwhile, Florence crept across the border into South Carolina overnight, with tropical storm force winds still extending 175 miles from the center.

Just south and west of Carteret, new flash flood emergencies were issued in bordering Onslow and Duplin counties around 3:30 a.m. The latest forecasts indicate that rainfall totals could reach 40 inches in southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina.

Norman Bryson, the director of Emergency Services in Onslow County, said as many as 300 people may require rescue services on Saturday as floodwaters continued to rise.

Flooding is anticipated in Charlotte, North Carolina, more than 200 miles inland, as well as Fayetteville and Columbia.

Storm surges could reach 11 feet Saturday along coastal areas, particularly between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras.

By late Friday evening, tropical storm force winds reaching 85 mph were slamming the coast of both states.

An additional six to 10 inches of rain were expected to shower South Carolina from its eastern shore to locations 75 to 100 miles inland.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in South Carolina ahead of the storm.

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