The Slatest

Florence Continues to Trigger Dangerous Floods as Death Toll Rises to At Least 23

A man carries an older woman in knee-height water with a flooded house in the background.
Bob Richling carries Iris Darden as water from the Little River starts to seep into her home on Sept. 17 in Spring Lake, North Carolina.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At least 23 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Florence since the storm hit, according to authorities.

Now a tropical depression, Florence has remained massive and deadly, pounding multiple states with heavy rains that have closed roads, stranded residents, and threatened to push already overflowing rivers to new record heights and flood areas far from the coasts.

While the storm has begun to move out of the Carolinas and Virginia into the Northeast, North Carolina remains in a state of emergency, and less heavy rains will continue to exacerbate flooding in all three states, which are still at risk of perilous landslides. Flooded areas will likely stay so for days, and thousands who evacuated still cannot return to their homes.

According to the Washington Post, recent fatalities include 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch, who was swept from his mother’s arms in Union County, North Carolina, on Sunday night after her car was overtaken by rushing water.

Among the other deaths are a 3-month-old and the infant’s mother, who were killed by a tree that fell through a mobile home; two people who died in a generator-related carbon monoxide incident; and several people who died in vehicular accidents. Seventeen of the reported deaths have been in North Carolina and six in South Carolina.

A large number of roads, including portions of interstates, have been cut off by flooding, isolating some patches of land in the region. The city of Wilmington, North Carolina, which has about 119,000 residents, has been almost entirely cut off from the rest of the state. Authorities are planning to deliver emergency supplies to the city.

Currently, the storm is moving northeast at around 15 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center, and as it pushes north into southern New York and New England, it can be expected to bring heavy rains and flash floods with it all the way through Pennsylvania. North Carolina and Virginia are currently under flash flood warnings, and at least one tornado has appeared in North Carolina.

Florence did not fail to follow through on forecasters’ dire warnings: According to CNN, it has dropped the highest-ever total rainfall for any tropical system to hit the East Coast of the United States. And according to CBS News, more than half a million power outages have been reported in the Carolinas, while tens of thousands of homes are thought to be damaged. President Trump approved a disaster declaration for South Carolina on Sunday.

The flooding in the areas around several of North Carolina’s rivers has appeared particularly threatening, putting strain on dams and levees and prompting an order for thousands to evacuate in more inland areas. Authorities told residents in Hoke County, North Carolina, to evacuate late Sunday because of the possibility a dam there could breach. Across the region, thousands have taken refuge in shelters, and both volunteers and National Guard soldiers continue to conduct rescue operations.