Hundreds of people on Tuesday waited in long lines for water and other essentials in Wilmington, North Carolina, which is still mostly cut off by high water days after Hurricane Florence unleashed epic floods, and the governor pleaded with more than 10,000 evacuees across the state not to return home yet.
The death toll rose to at least 35 in three states, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina, as Florence’s remnants went in two directions: Water flowed downstream toward the North Carolina coast and storms moved northeast, with flash floods hitting New Hampshire and New York.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that the flooding set off by as much as 1m of rain from Florence is far from over and would get worse in places.
“I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won’t end,” he said.
Addressing about 10,000 people who remain in shelters and “countless more” staying elsewhere, Cooper urged residents to stay put, particularly those from the hardest-hit coastal counties that include Wilmington, near where Hurricane Florence blew ashore on Friday last week.
Roads remain treacherous, he said, adding that some are being closed for the first time as inland rivers swelled by torrential rainfall drain toward the Atlantic Ocean.
“I know it was hard to leave home, and it is even harder to wait and wonder whether you even have a home to go back to,” Cooper said.
In Wilmington — population 120,000 — workers began handing out supplies using a system that resembled a giant fast-food drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to a line of pallets, placed an order and left without having to get out. A woman blew a whistle each time drivers were supposed to pull forward.
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 rations. An olive-drab military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.
Brandon Echavarrieta struggled to stay composed as he described life post-Florence: no power for days, rotted meat in the freezer, no water or food and just one bath in a week.
“It’s been pretty bad,” said Echavarrieta, 34, as his voice broke from the emotion.
Supplies have been brought into the area by large military trucks and by helicopters, which also have been used to pluck hundreds of desperate people from the top of homes and other structures.
“We still are encouraging or asking folks not to come home,” said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County commissioners. “We want you here. We love you. We miss you, but access to Wilmington is still very limited and is not improving as quickly as we would like.”
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