Tropical Storm Florence dumped “epic” amounts of rain on North and South Carolina as it trudged inland on Saturday, knocking out power and causing at least eight deaths as flood waters that have devastated many communities kept rising.
Florence’s intensity has diminished since it roared ashore along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast on Friday as a hurricane. But its slow march over the two states, crawling west at only 3 miles per hour (6 km per hour), is expected to leave large parts of the region deluged in the coming days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said late Saturday.
“This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news briefing. His state has already endured record rainfall, with much more forecast to come. Rivers will continue to rise days after the rain has stopped, he said.
“This is a hurricane event followed by a flood event,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard. More than 26,000 hunkered down in shelters.
Numerous roads were closed, and authorities warned of the risk of landslides, tornadoes and flash floods, with dams and bridges in peril as rivers and creeks swelled. As of Saturday, about 676,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in South Carolina.
North Carolina officials said there had been at least seven storm-related fatalities in the state, with unconfirmed reports of a further three deaths.
South Carolina authorities reported one death.
The White House said President Donald Trump approved making federal funding available in some affected counties.
Trump, who plans a visit to the region next week, tweeted his “deepest sympathies and warmth” to the families and friends of those who had lost their lives.