Preparedness

Hurricane Florence Update: Flooding Expected to be Issue for Days, Weeks

'Flooding is a main concern right now. We’re getting a lot of rain and it has nowhere to go.'

by The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C. / September 16, 2018
Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence inundate the town of Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. AP/Steve Helber

(TNS) - As Onslow County communities turn to cleanup and recovery efforts, many areas will still be dealing with impacts of river flooding.

“Flooding is a main concern right now. We’re getting a lot of rain and it has nowhere to go,” said meteorologist Victoria Oliva with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

Oliva said Wilmington was getting some of the heaviest rains Saturday night as Florence, downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, has stuck around over the area with little movement.

“Florence is moving through really, really slow,” she said.

Oliva said the storm is expected to pick up some speed late Sunday and go westward.

But Eastern North Carolina can still expect to see more from Florence.

Oliva said the area may not see as much wind and rain but winds will continue to be gusty, which could continue to bring down power lines or limbs and while rain may not be as heavy, but more rain doesn’t help the flooding situation.

And the rain continues to impact river flooding as it moves west.

“Anything upstream is going to come downstream,” Oliva said.

Record-breaking flooding expected for Trent River in Jones County, New River in Onslow, Northeast Cape Fear in Duplin County, and major flooding along Neuse River in Lenoir and Craven counties, according to a briefing by the National Weather Service in Newport.

In Onslow County, flood stage for the New River at Gum Branch is 14 feet and the last observation by the gauge was 19 feet before it failed.

Inundation from storm surge is no longer a major impact but river flooding will impact the area for days or several weeks, the briefing said.

Florence’s ongoing impacts have made it difficult for work to begin to assess damage and begin cleaning up and restoring power after the initial blow from the storm’s wind and coastal flooding and storm surge.

Jacksonville Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett said the city had hoped to lift its curfew Saturday at noon but personnel and resources had to be diverted from clean-up efforts to rescue calls from flooding and other issues.

While flooding in Swansboro has decreased, the Friendly City by the Sea still has a long road ahead.

Firemen and volunteer residents have pitched in and cleared off many roadways littered with debris, said Swansboro Mayor John Davis.

“Most of the roads (inside town limits) are open,” he said.

Some exceptions include N.C. 24, Hammocks Beach and Mt. Pleasant where the roads are washed out, he added. These have been marked off with deterrents or barricades to prevent drivers from crossing the unsafe areas.

There is water damage to the roofs of homes, he said, with some shingles on roofs gone and the wood underneath leaking water into the homes while the tin roofs on some downtown homes are gone, he said.

But getting into or out of the town is near impossible. David said some have tried getting supplies into the town, including additional generators, but could not find a way in.

“Swansboro is an island right now,” Davis said.

He cautioned those outside of town and those outside of Onslow County to stay where they are and not attempt to get on the roadways.

The good news is Davis believes the major flooding for the town has passed, as long as the rain stays at the slower speed of downfall its held most of the day Saturday.

“I think if the rate of rain holds, we’ll be OK,” he said.

Rainfall amounts in the Swansboro area over two days have reached a state record, according to a report by the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service in Newport recently posted on its Facebook page that the rainfall total from Hurricane Florence has surpassed 30 inches.

“Southeastern Regional Climate Center confirms that the Swansboro rainfall total of 30.59 inches is a preliminary 2 and 3 day rain record for the state of North Carolina,” the post reads.

As of noon on Saturday, the NWS forecast office had seen 23.75 inches of rainfall.

Other Eastern North Carolina towns have also seen extensive rainfall amounts: Emerald Isle, 23.49 inches, Maysville, 18.59 inches, Jacksonville, 16.16 inches, Kinston, 16.01 inches, Wilmington, 12.37 inches, New Bern 8.4 inches.

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Updated at 12:33 p.m.

This morning at 5 a.m. II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines with two hardback Humvees and two assault amphibian vehicles (AAVs) were deployed about three miles away from Camp Lejeune down Piney Green road to assist in an emergency extraction of about 20 civilians whose residences were threatened by rising flood waters. Onslow County's Emergency Operations Center communicated the support request directly to Camp Lejeune's Security and Emergency Operations Center. By 6:30 A.M., the Marines had completed transporting the civilians to the Piney Green Volunteer Fire Department for follow on transfer to Onslow County shelters which are now open.

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Updated at 10:55 a.m.

According to county officials, there have been over 20 home rescues and 3 vehicle rescues since Friday evening.

“At 3 p.m. yesterday, we had over 100 (people in shelters across the county),” Cornelius Jordan, Onslow County representative, said. “At 6 a.m., over 300.”

The people in those shelters have all been evacuated due to serious damage to their home.

A swift water rescue team of about 15 people has been brought in from Indiana to help in water rescue efforts, according to Jordan. The Coast Guard is now in the area assisting with searches as well. They have been combing through areas such as Country Club and Piney Green, where there is up to six feet of water reported on the ground.

“There are people in those areas asking for rescues to be made,” Jordan said. ““If you got two miles full of six foot water you’re not going to get a (regular) vehicle in there.”

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©2018 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.)

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