• FLORENCE UPDATES: Curfews issued in Union, Stanly counties because of severe flooding

    Updated:

    Heavy rains from Florence, which was downgraded to a tropical depression just before 5 a.m. Sunday, are producing flash flooding and major river flooding in parts of North Carolina.

    The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are being dumped on the state. It says the effect is expected to be "catastrophic."

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    [PHOTOS: Deadly Florence soaks the Carolinas]
    The center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina as heavy rains spread there.

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    Latest Florence outlook:

    • Florence has weakened to a tropical depression, moving west at 8 mph with maximum winds of 35 mph
    • The Charlotte-area started to see the effects of Florence on Saturday, with bands of very heavy rain and heavy flooding threats
    • Conditions around Charlotte went downhill Saturday and will last all day Sunday 
    • A flash flood emergency was issued for southeast Mecklenburg County and Union County
    • Flash flood warnings have been issued for several local counties
    • Quick spin up tornadoes cannot be ruled out Sunday
    • Coastal cities have reported more than 20 inches of rain in two days
    • Forecasters warned that drenching rains with as much as 3½ feet of water could trigger epic flooding well inland through early next week
    • Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters


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    >> Watch the video below for Severe Weather Center 9's latest forecast update on Hurricane Florence.

     


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    >> Governor Roy Cooper said shelters across the state have opened to help people displaced by evacuations. You can find a full list here.

    >> The state has announced the closures of state parks, museums and other sites. For a full list click here.

    >> N.C. State Superintendent Mark Johnson provided this link for a list of districts already closed and other information related to schools across the state.

    >> Airbnb activated its “Open Homes Program” to help those who were evacuated because of Florence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

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    [DAMAGE REPORTS: Florence topples trees, shuts down roads across region]
     

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

    9:57 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Anson, Richmond and Stanly counties until 6:15 a.m. Monday.

    8:52 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Rowan County until 11:45 p.m. Sunday.

    8:40 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Rowan County until 2:30 a.m. Monday.

    8:04 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Ashe County until 8 a.m. Monday.

    7:34 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Chesterfield County until 1:30 a.m. Monday.

    7:16 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Union County until 1:15 a.m. Monday.

    6:47 p.m.

    Flash flood warning for Mecklenburg, Iredell, Rowan and Cabarrus counties until 12:45 a.m.

    A Gaston County commissioner says a 3-month-old child was killed after a tree fell on a mobile home outside of Dallas.

    Commissioner Tracy Philbeck posted about the death on his Facebook page. He warned people to take the storm seriously with trees continuing to fall across the area.

    4:30 p.m.

    Union County has issued a curfew effective 7 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday.

    Officials said travel and roadway conditions remain extremely dangerous.

     

    4:15 p.m.

    Duke Energy says the collapse of a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast is an "ongoing situation," with an unknown amount of potentially contaminated storm water flowing into a nearby lake.

    Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Sunday that a full assessment of how much ash escaped at the Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington can't occur until it stops raining. She said there was no indication that contamination from Sutton Lake had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River.

    The company initially estimated on Saturday that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash were displaced at the landfill, which is enough to fill about 180 dump trucks. Sheehan said that estimate could be revised after a further examination of conditions at the site.

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    3:30 p.m.

    South Carolina officials are warning residents about flash flooding as rains from Florence continue to pelt the state.

    Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters on Sunday that it will be days until the cresting of rivers in the area of most concern, along the state's border with North Carolina.

    Officials have been warning for days that flooding could be disastrous in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin, into which several swollen rivers that originate in North Carolina flow.

    National Weather Service officials noted that as much as 16 inches of rain have fallen in Chesterfield County, with other nearby areas marking similar rainfall totals from Florence.

    Transportation Secretary Christy Hall says workers are still working on projects along two roadways to divert rainwater to keep U.S. 378 and U.S. 501 Bypass passable.

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    3:30 p.m.

    The town of Waxhaw has put a curfew in place due to the rising waters in the area.

    The curfew will be in place for all non-emergency activity from 9 p.m. to sunrise.

     

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    2:30 p.m.

    The White House released the below statement on Florence.

    "Today, President Trump continues to monitor the preparedness and response efforts for Hurricane Florence. He was briefed again this afternoon by Sec. Nielsen, Admiral Schultz and Administrator Long.  Yesterday, he spoke with Mayor Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach, SC and Mayor Dana Outlaw of New Bern, NC. They discussed the rescue and response efforts in those communities and the President offered the full support of Federal government. Mayor Outlaw thanked President Trump for immediately authorizing the emergency declaration."

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    2 p.m.

    • A flash flood warning was issued for Anson, Richmond, and Stanly counties until 10:15 p.m. Sunday
    • A flash flood warning was issued for Chesterfield and Lancaster counties until 8 p.m. Sunday
    • A flash flood warning was issued for Gaston County
    • A flash flood warning was issued for York County until 7:45 p.m.
    • A flash flood warning was issued Burke County until 8:15 p.m.

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    2 p.m.

    The death toll from Florence has risen to 15.

    The South Carolina Highway Patrol says a pickup truck was traveling west on Interstate 20 in Kershaw County on Sunday morning when it went off the roadway. Troopers say the truck struck an overpass support beam, and the driver died at the scene.

    Kershaw County Coroner David West says the driver's name has not been released because all relatives have not yet been notified.

    Heavy rain has fallen on portions of central and eastern South Carolina after former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence moved onshore.

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    1:30 p.m.

    A flash flood emergency has been issued for southeast Mecklenburg County and Union County until 7:30 p.m. Neighborhoods from Uptown all the way into Union County are included in the alert.

    A flash flood emergency means there are threats to life and property. 

     

     

    1:15 p.m.

    The flash flood warning for Union County has been extended until 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

     

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    1 p.m.

    The Gastonia Fire Department said it is responding to accidents in both directions on Interstate 85 between mile marker 17 and 20. 

     

     

    Officials said multiple lanes are shut down and drivers should expect significant delays.

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    12:50 p.m.

    A flash flood warning was issued for Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties until 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

     

     

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    12 p.m.

    Governor Roy Cooper provided an update on the storm Sunday afternoon saying, “The risk to life is rising with the angry waters.”

     

     

    The governor said many rivers are rising and are not expected to crest until later Sunday or Monday. He said Florence has dumped two feet or more water in some areas.

    “The storm has never been more dangerous than it is no,” Cooper said.

    Cooper said he flew with the United States Coast Guard to survey damage and could see the destruction in the eastern part of the state from the air.

    The governor said officials added counties to the federal disaster relief request Saturday night.

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    12 p.m.

    North Carolina state regulators and environmental groups are monitoring the threat from hog and poultry farms in low-lying, flood-prone areas.

    These industrial-scale farms typically feature vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters.

    In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in the floodwaters.

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    11:45 a.m.

    North Carolina's transportation secretary says one of his top priorities is to find a way to get into Wilmington after damage from Florence closed major roads into the city.

     

     

    Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told The Associated Press on Sunday that U.S. 74 into Wilmington is impassable and Interstate 40 into the city also is closed.

    Trodgon spoke as he flew with Gov. Roy Cooper over some of the damaged areas. During the flight on a U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane, they flew from Raleigh and to some of the hardest-hit areas, including Fayetteville, Lumberton, Jacksonville and New Bern. Weather conditions prevented them from getting as far east as Wilmington.

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    11:45 a.m.

    The manager of a southeastern North Carolina county says about 90 people have been rescued from high waters due to flooding.

    Columbus County Manager Mike Stephens said late Sunday morning that rivers and streams have been rising due to large amounts of rain from Florence and power is out in a large swath of the county. Stephens says the county's secondary roads are "almost impassable" and water is covering part of one main highway, U.S. 74.

    Stephens says some of the people were rescued from vehicles that ran into deep water.

    He says there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities in Columbus County from the storm.

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    11:30 a.m.

    In Conway, South Carolina, the National Guard is building a wall of sand on both sides of Highway 501 to divert flooding from the Wacamaw River.

     

     

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    11:20 a.m.

    Florence has claimed a 14th victim: a man who drowned when a pickup truck flipped into a drainage ditch in South Carolina.

    Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson says 23-year-old Michael Dalton Prince was a passenger in the truck, which lost control on a flooded two-lane road early Sunday.

    Johnson says the driver and another passenger escaped after the truck ended upside down in the flooded ditch north of Georgetown.

    Prince is the fourth person killed by the storm in South Carolina.

    Authorities say a Horry County couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning running a generator inside and a Union County woman died when her vehicle hit a tree branch.

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    10:50 a.m.

    One of the authorities leading the response to Florence says the storm is causing "historic and unprecedented flooding."

    Michael Sprayberry is director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Florence's combination of heavy rainfall, extreme storm surge and high winds makes the storm "one for the record books."

     

     

    Both Sprayberry and Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz say they are getting all the support they need from the federal government.

    Schultz has a lead role in responding to Florence. He notes that the storm is moving very slowly and that some of the affected areas haven't seen the worst of it.

    He also notes that the affected areas are looking at a "long-term recovery."

    About 25,000 people were without power in Mecklenburg County.

     

     

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    10:40 a.m.

    All three York County Red Cross shelters and the York County Animal Control Pet Shelter will be closing by noon today, according to officials.

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    10 a.m.

    The mayor of a Fayetteville suburb says about 100 people in her community have been urged to evacuate to higher ground over flooding concerns.

     

     

    Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said Sunday morning that the warning went out to neighborhoods around Hope Mills Lake because the water there is expected to rise significantly. She says fire and police officials were going door to door in the affected neighborhoods Sunday morning to make sure people are aware.

    Warner says a complete dam failure is not expected. So far, she says the lake hasn't overflowed its banks.

     

     

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    9:55 a.m.

    The mayor of New Bern says his city has imposed a curfew. He says there are 30 roads still unpassable, 4,200 homes and more than 300 commercial buildings damaged, 6,000 customers without power and 1,200 residents in shelters because of Tropical Depression Florence.

    Mayor Dana Outlaw says many of the creeks in the area are "increasing by the hour" and there's concern about trees falling due to the saturated ground conditions.

    Outlaw says officials are "urging residents to stay inside and to not travel," especially so as to not interrupt utility workers trying to restore power.

     

     

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    9:45 a.m.

    The head of the U.S. government's disaster relief agency says Florence is, unfortunately, delivering the damage that was predicted as it sweeps across the Carolinas.

    Brock Long said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to meet the demands of North Carolina officials "as they're coming up to us."

     

     

    Long noted that "recovery is always a very frustrating process for people when they've lost their livelihoods, but we're going to be OK."

    Long says the agency's immediate focus is on search-and-rescue efforts and meeting the needs of people who are in shelters.

     

     

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    9:30 a.m.

    Charlotte Douglas International Airport has seen 3.48 inches of rain so far. Nearly 7 inches have fallen in Matthews, and 6 inches in Mint Hill, while we have seen 4 inches in uptown.

     

     

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    9:10 a.m.

    Authorities say a couple has died in South Carolina after using a generator inside their home during Florence.

    Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard said 63-year-old Mark Carter King and 61-year-old Debra Collins Rion were killed by breathing in carbon monoxide.

    Willard said in a statement their bodies were found in a Loris home Saturday afternoon, but they likely died the day before as the heavy rains and winds from former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence were moving onshore.

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    8:30 a.m.

    A Flash Flood Warning has been issued for Lancaster and Chesterfield counties until 2:15 p.m.

     

     

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    8:15 a.m.

    Steady, heavy rains are causing some roads in Union County to flood, according to the sheriff's office.

    Secondary roads with low spots will continue to experience flooding for the next several hours. As a precaution, deputies are asking citizens to limit unnecessary travel until conditions improve.

     

     

    Trees and limbs are also continuing to fall across the county. DOT crews, power companies, public works officials, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMS workers are all doing their part to clear the roads and respond to emergencies as quickly as they can.

    Remember to use 911 for emergencies only. Call 704-283-3545 for storm-related issues.

     

     

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    8:05 a.m.

    A Flash Flood Warning has been issued for Mecklenburg County until 1:30 p.m.

     

     

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    7:50 a.m.

    A Flash Flood Warning has been issued for Union County until 1:15 p.m.

     

     

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    7:40 a.m.

    Widespread street flooding being reported in Cheraw, South Carolina, as well as several water rescues. Some of the main roads are blocked.

     

     

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    7:30 a.m.

    The Little Sugar Creek Greenway is flooding in south Charlotte as heavier rain begins to fall around the Queen City.

     

     

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    7:05 a.m.

    A Tornado Watch has been issued for Anson, Chesterfield and Richmond counties until 5 p.m.

     

     

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    6:45 a.m.

    More than 875 people sought refuge overnight in one of the 20 Red Cross and community partner shelters this region is supporting.

     

     

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    5:10 a.m.

    We are dealing with massive power outages across the area this morning.

    Mecklenburg County has more than 17,000 outages.

    Union County is reporting 4,000 outages.

    Richmond County, which had about 12,000 outages this time yesterday, is down to 4,300.

     

     

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    5 a.m.

    MEDIC says ambulances are well-positioned across Mecklenburg County as potentially stronger rain arrives. On Saturday, they responded to 355 calls -- 18 of them involving fallen trees, as well as 46 traffic crashes.

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    4:45 a.m.

    Florence has weakened into to tropical depression but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

    Florence has been downgraded to a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was moving west at 8 mph with maximum winds of 35 mph.

    The Charlotte region will still be dealing with heavy rainfall throughout the day, plus strong winds and gusts on top of that.

     

     

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    4:20 a.m.

    Tropical Storm Florence is expected to weaken into a depression soon but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

    The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be "catastrophic." In its 2 a.m. update Sunday, the center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

     

     

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    4 a.m.

    Meteorologist Keith Monday says the intensity of the rain is going to start picking up over the next 30 minutes. 

     

     

    A National Weather Service issued an alert for gusty rain bands with torrential rainfall.

    The alert will impact Catawba, northeastern Rutherford, southern Alexander, Lincoln, Gaston, Union, Cabarrus, Davie, Iredell, southeastern Caldwell, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Cleveland, southeastern Burke, Union, Chester, York, and Cherokee counties until 5:45 a.m. 

    The instructions in the alert said: 

    "The combination of gusty winds and saturated soil conditions will cause scattered trees and power lines to fall. Seek shelter inside an interior room. Torrential rainfall may flood areas with poor drainage, such as ditches and underpasses. Avoid these areas and do not cross flooded roads. Water levels of small streams may also rise rapidly. Seek higher ground if threatened by flood waters."

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    3:55 a.m.

    North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of the still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding from Florence.

    After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. Storm surges, flash floods, and winds have spread destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard, and volunteers have used boats, helicopters, and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct hundreds of rescues as of Saturday.

    The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm has now climbed to 11.

    Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecaster warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring some of the most destructive flooding in North Carolina history.

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    2:55 a.m.

    Meteorologist Jaclyn Shearer says Florence is close to dropping below tropical storm intensity and is picking up speed at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. 

    Flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

    The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be "catastrophic." In its 2 a.m. update Sunday, the center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

    Forecasters say heavy rains also are expected early in the week in parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia. Both states also are at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding.

     

     

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    1:30 a.m.

    Meteorologist Keith Monday says winds remain gusty Sunday morning with wind speeds between 20 and 40 mph. 

    The threat for downed trees and power outages remains for our area. 

     

     

    ____

    10:55 p.m.

    At 11 p.m. Sunday, Florence was about 40 miles east-southeast of Columbia, South Carolina.

    It has top sustained winds of 40 mph and is moving to the west at 3 mph.


    Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

    As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding.

    After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. Storm surges, flash floods and winds scattered destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct rescues Saturday.

    The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm climbed to 11.

    Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecasters now warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.

    Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels: The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to burst their banks, possibly flooding nearby communities.

    Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles from the North Carolina coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

    John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile from the river. Rain-soaked furniture workers helped him quickly empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse in a low-lying strip mall.

    "It's the first time we've ever had to move anything like this," Rose said. "If the river rises to the level they say it's going to, then this warehouse is going to be under water."

    On U.S. Route 401 nearby, rain rose in ditches and around unharvested tobacco crops along the road. Ponds had begun to overflow, and creeks passing under the highway churned with muddy, brown water. Further along the Cape Fear River, grass and trees lining the banks were partly submerged, still well below a highway bridge crossing it.

    "It's hard to believe it's going to get that high," says Elizabeth Machado, who came to the bridge to check on the river.

    Fayetteville's city officials, meanwhile, got help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate some 140 residents of an assisted living facility in Fayetteville to a safer location at a church.

    Already, more than 2 feet of rain has fallen in places, and forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet before Sunday is out.

    "I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

    As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 40 miles east-southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, crawling west at 3 mph - not even as fast as a person walking. Its winds were down to 40 mph.

    In Goldsboro, North Carolina, home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, roads that frequently flood were already closed Saturday by rushing water. Dozens of electric repair trucks massed to respond to damage expected to hit central North Carolina as rainwater collected into rivers headed to the coast. Hundreds of thousands of outages have been reported.

    A creek that feeds into the Neuse was rushing over a road near Phil Eubanks' home Saturday. Another creek backed up into their basement Friday, but based on past experience Eubanks and his wife think the worst is over for them.

    "I didn't sleep last night. It was creeping up those steps" from the basement, said his jittery wife, Ellen. "It came up. It went down today. I think we're OK."

    On Saturday evening, Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington, North Carolina. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said about 2,000 cubic yards of ash were displaced at the Sutton Plant and that contaminated storm water likely flowed into the plant's cooling pond.

    Sutton was mothballed in 2013 and the company has been excavating ash to remove to safer lined landfills. The ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

    In New Bern , along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people Saturday.

    Kevin Knox and his family were rescued by boat from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, whose team used a phone app to locate people in distress.

    "Amazing. They did awesome," said Knox, who was stranded with seven others including a boy in a life vest.

    New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people were safely rescued in the town of 30,000 residents. She called damage to thousands of buildings "heart-wrenching."

    Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.

    Coast Guard helicopters took off across the street to rescue stranded people from rooftops and swamped cars.

    The Marines rescued about 20 civilians from floodwaters near Camp Lejeune, using Humvees and amphibious assault vehicles, the base reported.

    The dead included a mother and baby killed by a falling tree in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that fell across a highway.

    Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, authorities said. A husband and wife died in a storm-linked house fire, officials said, and an 81-year-old man died after falling while packing to evacuate.

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