WILMINGTON, N.C. — Stranded by Florence’s epic floods days after the hurricane hit North Carolina, Wilmington residents lined up by the hundreds Tuesday for free food, water and tarps, while officials managed to open a second route into the surrounded city.
The death toll from the storm rose to at least 34 in three states, with 26 fatalities in North Carolina, as Florence’s remnants brought heavy downpours to the heavily populated Northeast, triggering flooding in New Hampshire and New York state. A tornado warning was issued near Salem, Massachusetts.
Four days after Florence began unloading more than 2 feet of rain that paralyzed much of North Carolina, the sun was shining again in parts of the state. But officials warned that the flooding isn’t over and is expected to get worse in some places.
“I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won’t end. I know many people are tired of the present and are scared of the future,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “But please know we will not give up on you.”
In Wilmington, population 120,000, workers began handing out supplies using a system that resembled a fast-food drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to pallets lining a street, placed an order and left without having to get out.
Items Brought Into City by Military Trucks and Helicopters
Todd Tremain needed tarps to cover up spots where Florence’s winds ripped shingles off his roof. “The roof is leaking, messing up the inside of the house,” he said.
Others got a case of bottled water or military MREs, or field rations. An olive-drab military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.
Items have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters, which also have been used to pluck hundreds of desperate people from atop homes and other structures.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said that two routes were now open into Wilmington, which had been cut off by floodwaters. Still, officials encouraged evacuees to stay away until conditions improve.
The governor said 16 rivers were at major flood stage, about 10,000 people were in shelters across the state, approximately 343,000 were without power, more than 1,100 roads were closed, and emergency workers reported rescuing and evacuating more than 2,200 people and around 575 animals.
President Donald Trump boasted on Twitter:
Right now, everybody is saying what a great job we are doing with Hurricane Florence – and they are 100% correct. But don’t be fooled, at some point in the near future the Democrats will start ranting…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
The dead include a 1-year-old boy who was swept away after his mother drove into floodwaters and lost her grip on him. Authorities in Virginia said one person was dead after an apparent tornado.