South Carolina

FLORENCE AFTERMATH: 2 die in rising flood waters that overtook a van in SC

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Minute-by-minute updates on the Hurricane Florence aftermath (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Two people have died after a van was overtaken by rising flood waters in South Carolina.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson tells The Associated Press that two women drowned at around 6 p.m. Tuesday when a van tried to cross a roadway between Mullins and Nichols and was overtaken by water.

Richardson didn't release their names. He said two other people were sent to a hospital for observation.

Richardson said the van was traveling near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water officials in South Carolina are watching closely as water continues to pour into the state from upriver in North Carolina following the heavy rains of Florence.

Richardson said "They were trying to negotiate through fast-running water, and it just didn't work out." He says the van is still in the water.

Forecasters predict some rivers in the northeastern area of the state might not reach their highest levels until later this week or next week.

6:45 p.m.

The N.C. Department of Transportation says flooding has led to the closing of a bridge over the Cape Fear River in one city as well as part of an interstate over the same river.

MAJOR DETOUR: Travel not advised in southeastern, south central NC

A statement from the department Tuesday says it will close the Person Street Bridge in Fayetteville, and also shut down Interstate 95 between mile markers 46 and 56.

Floodwater from Cross Creek covers North Cool Spring Street on the edge of downtown Fayetteville, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (Paul Woolverton /The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

Transportation officials are also closely monitoring another bridge in Fayetteville it says will be closed if the water level reaches the girders, which support the deck.

With the impending closure, I-95 will be closed in both directions between exits 13 and 56 and between exits 65 and 81. Near Rocky Mount, southbound traffic is being detoured off the interstate at exit 138 and being sent to Charlotte and into South Carolina.

State transportation officials will continue to monitor water levels and open I-95 as soon as possible.

5:15 p.m.

North Carolina officials say their state's death toll from Florence has risen to 27.

Sonja Bennett-Bellamy, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday that a 46-year-old woman was killed in Rutherford County when a tree fell on her vehicle while she was driving.

The fatality brings the overall storm death toll to at least 35 in three states.

4:20 p.m.

The Gaston County Police Department said 13 officers left for New Bern to help in the Florence recovery effort on Tuesday.

Those officers will be providing a police patrol function alongside New Bern police officers through Sunday night and are expected to return home Monday.


3:50 p.m.

Areal flood warning for Anson, Richmond and Stanly counties until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

3:30 p.m.

The Great Pee Dee River at the Highway 1 bridge in Chesterfield County crested at 46.6 feet Tuesday afternoon. That is nearly 17 feet above flood stage. By mid-afternoon, the water started to slowly recede.


3:20 p.m. 

Sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway have opened now that debris scattered by Florence has been cleared.

A statement from the National Park Service Tuesday said the stretch of parkway known as the "Asheville commuter zone" is now open from milepost 375.7 at Ox Creek Road just north of Asheville to the parkway's terminus at milepost 469 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The parkway in North Carolina is also open from milepost 290.8 at Green Hill Road to milepost 317.5 at U.S. Highway 221, including Linville Falls.

The park service said campgrounds in those sections will reopen at noon on Wednesday.


2 p.m. 

CNN is reporting President Donald Trump will travel to areas impacted by Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina on Wednesday.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina are expected to fly on Air Force One with the president.

CNN is reporting Trump will visit Myrtle Beach while in South Carolina. It's unclear what are in North Carolina he will visit.


1:20 p.m. 

North Carolina officials say even though the sun is shining in parts of the state, major flooding is continuing in the aftermath of Florence and is expected to worsen in some areas.

Gov. Roy Cooper says 16 rivers are at major flood stage Tuesday with an additional three forecast to peak Wednesday and Thursday.

He says he knows for many North Carolinians it feels like "a nightmare that just won't end."

About 10,000 people are in shelters across the state and around 343,000 are without power. Cooper says first responders have reported rescuing and evacuating more than 2,200 people and about 575 animals.

Officials say more than 1,100 roads are closed, 255 of those primary roads. The state's two major interstates, I-40 and I-95, are closed in many locations.

There have been 26 confirmed fatalities in North Carolina due to the storm.


1:20 p.m. 

Authorities have opened two routes into the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, which for a time was completely cut off by floodwaters.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told a news conference Tuesday that two routes via Interstate 40 are now open.

But Saffo and New Hanover County commissioner Woody White are still asking people to still stay away because those routes could flood again later. They also warned that other routes are still dangerous and sinkholes are developing under some of the flooded roads.


1 p.m. 

Florence has claimed a 26th victim in North Carolina.

Keith Acree is a spokesman for North Carolina Emergency Management.

He said Tuesday that the 26th victim is a 71-year-old man who died Sunday when his car ran off North Carolina Highway 210 in Pender County and into floodwaters.


12 p.m. 

Meteorologist Jaclyn Shearer said she spoke with officials at the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

NWS officials said they think the Rocky River at Norwood has fallen below flood stage, but they are working to get someone out to check the area in person.


9:00 a.m.

Chesterfield County Emergency Management officials said National Guard units will be around the Pee Dee River Tuesday checking on homes in the area.

The river is expected to crest later Tuesday at 47.1 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Flood stage for the Cheraw area is 30 feet.

Officials advised residents in the area to seek higher ground. They also said there is a shelter open at Hopewell Baptist Church in Chesterfield.


7:30 a.m. 

Meteorologist Jaclyn Shearer says flooding across the Carolinas is still a concern.

Officials say the Norwood Rocky River gauge stopped reporting data at 11 p.m. Sunday, so they are unable to receive reliable updates.

The last reading we received said it was 2 feet above major flood stage, 16 feet above minor flood.

6:00 a.m. 

Officials are still discovering damage to roads and bridges across Union County.

As of 6 a.m., 28 roads in Union County remained closed due to flooding or damage from flooding.


5:30 a.m. - Tuesday

Meteorologist Jaclyn Shearer says a few showers from Florence remain in the high country Tuesday morning.

Shearer says the showers seen in the high country are the tail-end of Florence as the storm pushes out of our area. Florence is now considered an "elongated area of low pressure."

Power Outages

More than 342,000 people remain without power across North Carolina.

Mecklenburg County remains the hardest hit in our area regarding power outages. Mecklenburg County has more than 3,800 outages.

Richmond County with nearly 2,100.

Union, Anson, and Stanly counties have several hundred outages each.

School Closings / Delays

Several school districts are still closed Tuesday. Anson, Richmond, Stanly, and Union counties will not have school Tuesday.

Chesterfield County schools in South Carolina are closed Tuesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be open Tuesday, but will be closed Wednesday as previously scheduled.

The exception to this is Carmel Middle School, which still does not have power.

Cabarrus County Schools are on a two hour delay.


10:25 p.m. -- Monday

The state of emergency declared for Catawba County in response to Hurricane Florence ended at 8 p.m. Monday.


8:50 p.m. -- Monday

Officials say 31 people have died as a result of Florence; 24 of those were in North Carolina.


Floodwaters of Florence put North Carolina dams under stress

Devastating flooding in North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence has raised concerns about whether dams across the state, some of them already in poor condition, will be able to hold up under the strain.

State officials have been monitoring dam safety in cooperation with local authorities and say there has been at least one dam breach so far, with no homes affected. But there have been several other locations of concern and false alarms about dam failures that have caused panic.

[CLICK HERE for list of current closings]

[PHOTOS: Deadly Florence soaks the Carolinas]

According to data submitted to the National Inventory of Dams for this year's deadline and obtained by The Associated Press, the state has 1,445 dams rated high hazard out of about 5,700 dams total, ranging from large federally owned ones to small private ones. That hazard classification does not indicate the likelihood of failure - just that any failure would be likely to cause the loss of one or more human lives.

Of those high-hazard dams, 185 had conditions of poor or unsatisfactory during recent inspections, the data show. And many of those dams were in areas that have been inundated with water.

>> Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

Ahead of the storm, workers with North Carolina's Dam Safety Program identified vulnerable structures, contacted dam owners and operators to call attention to the threat and asked them to consider lowering impoundment water levels to temporarily increase storage capacity prior, Bridget Munger, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality said.

Dam safety personnel have also been deployed to the state Emergency Operations Center since before the storm, Munger added.

State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said Monday that there had been one dam breach in Brunswick County. He said no homes were affected in the inundation area.

On Sunday night, an Associated Press reporter was with a U.S. Army swift-water rescue team in Fayetteville when a call came over the radio about a dam failure in Pinehurst, which turned out to be a false alarm. Then another call came in reporting another dam breach.

Soldiers who had been resting on cots starting donning boots, helmets and life vests, and a team deployed toward a nearby fire department. About halfway there, the call was canceled - another false alarm.



A Facebook post claiming a dam in Hope Mills, a suburb of Fayetteville, had failed caused trouble there Sunday night, Mayor Jackie Warner said.

"It created a panic because people thought the dam had broken, and they didn't know which way the water would go," she said. Residents started calling asking if they needed to leave their homes, she said.

The dam held up just fine.

Rumors also spread Sunday night in nearby Hoke County about a dam break. Mandatory evacuations were ordered because of flooding at a lake, but the dam wasn't breached, emergency management coordinator Andrew Jacobs said. The evacuation order was lifted Monday afternoon.

In McLaughlin Lakes, a subdivision immediately next to the lake, most declined to evacuate.

"It was an overreaction, don't you think?" Jeff Konopka asked his neighbors.

"Very much so," said Kim Santiago, who has lived beside the lake for 24 years and has seen the dam overflow in numerous storms.

Two of North Carolina's high-hazard dams are at Duke Energy's Weatherspoon Plant in Robeson County, an area that has been swamped with water.

One is at a cooling pond and the other at a coal ash pond. The dam at the coal ash pond was found to be in poor condition during an inspection last year, according to the data.

Both structures were performing well and no problems were expected, Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Monday.

Catastrophic dam failures are infrequent, and age is a leading indicator of dam failure, with the exception of seismic or weather events, a 2008 Congressional Research Service report found.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave a "D'' grade to the state of the country's dams in a 2017 report, noting the average age of the dams is 56 years old. The ASCE estimated there are more than 2,000 "deficient high-hazard" dams lacking investment in repairs and upgrades.

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Mark Ogden, a technical specialist with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, said states have made significant strides in improving dam safety in recent years. But he said rising numbers of people living downstream of old dams, new dam safety technologies and other factors mean lots of upgrades are needed.

"In general, dam safety has improved tremendously over the years but there's still a long way to go," Ogden said.

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