South Carolina shooting spree leaves one officer dead, six wounded

Emergency personnel are seen on site in the aftermath of a shooting in Florence, South Carolina, U.S. October 3, 2018, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Derek Lowe/via REUTERS

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Seven law enforcement officers were shot, one fatally, when a gunman unleashed a hail of fire on police from inside a home on Wednesday near Florence, South Carolina, sparking a two-hour siege that ended with the suspect’s arrest, authorities said.

Details of the shooting and how it ended remained sketchy. But Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said several of his deputies came under attack as they tried to serve an otherwise routine search warrant in the Vintage Place subdivision on the city’s western edge.

Withering gunfire continued as scores of police converged on the area amid reports of an “active shooter” and deployed armored personnel carriers to provide cover for the wounded and move them from harm’s way, officials said.

“Fire was being shot all over,” Boone told reporters. “The way the suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards, so he had an advantage.”

An unspecified number of children who were inside the home with the gunman were all accounted for and safe after the suspect was taken into custody, ending a two-hour standoff, said Major Michael Nunn, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The outset of the confrontation was captured in a recording of emergency radio transmissions posted online by The State newspaper, in which a dispatcher is heard saying: “Have an officer down,” before warning rescue units that access to the victim was limited.

“They advise the patient is going to be behind a residence, and the suspect was still firing. Units be advised, shots are still being fired at this time,” the dispatcher said.

At a news conference hours later, Boone confirmed that three county sheriff’s deputies and four Florence city police officers were struck by gunfire in the incident and that one of the city officers had died.

The conditions of the six surviving wounded officers were not immediately known, though officials indicated some were badly injured.

Florence, a city of about 38,000 people, is in the Pee Dee region of northeastern South Carolina that was drenched by heavy rains and flooding from Hurricane Florence last month.

“This is simply devastating news from Florence. The selfless acts of bravery from the men and women in law enforcement is real, just like the power of prayer is real,” Governor Henry McMaster said on Twitter.

President Donald Trump added in his own tweet: “My thoughts and prayers are with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and the Florence Police Department tonight, in South Carolina. We are forever grateful for what our Law Enforcement Officers do 24/7/365.”

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C.; Additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York and Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney and Darren Schuettler)

At least five police officers shot in South Carolina: local media

(Reuters) – At least five law enforcement officers were shot in Florence, South Carolina, on Wednesday, an ABC News affiliate reported, citing the local sheriff’s office, and there were media reports that one of the officers was dead.

No official details on the shooting were immediately available, but the Florence County Emergency Management Department said on Twitter that “the active shooting situation is over and the suspect is in custody.”

“We are asking everyone to stay away from Vintage Place as there is still an active crime investigation in progress,” the tweet said.

Multiple news outlets reported that one officer was dead and four were injured.

A person answering the telephone at the county emergency department said he was not at liberty to provide further details.

WPDE-TV, based in Florence, reported that three Florence County sheriff’s deputies and two Florence city police officers were shot in the incident in a residential subdivision known as Vintage Place.

Florence, a city of about 38,000 people, is in the heart of the historical Pee Dee region of northeastern South Carolina that was drenched by heavy rains and flooding from Hurricane Florence.

(Reporting by Frank Mcgurty in New York and Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman Editing by Bill Tarrant)

South Carolina city hopeful as flooding remains a threat

Santee Cooper worker Carl McCrea checks the water levels around a 6000 foot long Aqua Dam built to keep sediment from a coal ash retention pond from going into the flooded Waccamaw River in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Conway, South Carolina, U.S. September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

By Harriet McLeod and Gene Cherry

CHARLESTON, S.C./RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – Emergency management officials in Georgetown, South Carolina, were optimistic on Thursday that their port community would see less flooding than previously expected in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Florence, which crashed ashore two weeks ago as a Category 1 hurricane and killed 46 people in three states, has since dissipated, but the storm’s torrential rainfall threatens to swamp Georgetown as it drains toward the ocean.

Forecasts now show floodwaters rising two to four feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) in Georgetown, which sits at the confluence of the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers about 30 miles (50 km) south of Myrtle Beach, considerably lower than initially feared.

“While we’re optimistic that things are looking better to some degree … there will be increased levels of water in some areas,” Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway said on Wednesday. “The awareness level needs to be elevated.”

Officials were still urging 6,000 to 8,000 residents to leave their homes, with rivers expected to crest in Georgetown on Friday and remain above flood stage for four or five days.

The North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies said preliminary research suggests that Florence was among the rainiest storms in the United States in some 70 years.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the river flooding caused by Florence, which dropped nearly 20 inches (50 cm) of rain in some places in the state, is something his state has not had to cope with before.

‘FULL BATTLE MODE’

“This is unprecedented and we are still in full battle mode,” McMaster said at a press briefing on Wednesday at Emergency Management Division headquarters in Columbia, the state capital.

Flooding has destroyed 46 homes in the state, significantly damaged more than 1,000 and forced 11,000 people to flee their homes, including 3,000 in Georgetown, EMD Director Kim Stenson said Wednesday.

In Conway County, where the Waccamaw was already well above flood stage, Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, said floodwaters stopped rising before inundating a pond that holds more than 200,000 tons of toxic coal ash.

“The river’s rise has slowed and we think it’s cresting today,” utility spokeswoman Mollie Gore said from the site, where 115 workers had shored up the dam around the pond. “We still have a foot between the top of the river and the top of the dam.”

Santee Cooper said it has removed more than 1 million tons of coal ash, which can contaminate water and harm fish and wildlife, from the site in the past few years.

Some one to two inches of rain moving into the central and western parts of the state in a next day or two will prolong the flooding, said meteorologist Rich Otto of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Crews worked to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod and Gene Cherry; additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Makini Brice in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; writing by Peter Szekely and Dan Whitcomb; editing by Cynthia Osterman, Lisa Shumaker, Larry King)

Florence-triggered flooding washes into South Carolina

U.S. Army Pfc. Marlen Squire, of the South Carolina National Guard, assists in evacuating local residents from floodwaters as a result of Hurricane Florence in Dongola, South Carolina, U.S. September 24, 2018. Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/U.S. Army National Guard/Handout via REUTERS

By Harriet McLeod and Gene Cherry

CHARLESTON, S.C./RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – Thousands of people in the Georgetown, South Carolina area were urged to leave as rivers inundated by Hurricane Florence rainwater threatened on Wednesday to submerge neighborhoods under 10 feet of water.

Georgetown, which sits at the confluence of the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers, was largely spared the initial fury of Florence, which came ashore on Sept. 14 as a Category 1 hurricane and killed 46 people in three states.

But the port city of more than 9,000 people stands in the path of what the National Weather Service says could be significant flooding as water dumped by the storm system drains to the ocean.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 people have been exhorted to leave, but it was not clear how many had done so as of Tuesday evening, said Randy Akers, deputy public information officer for Georgetown County.

Parts of Georgetown could be submerged in up to 10 feet (3 meters) of water in the coming days as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overrun their banks, the National Weather Service said, adding that the deluge threatened to cut off highways and isolate communities.

“Be very vigilant,” Georgetown County Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge told residents on Facebook. “When you see the water start to rise, that is when it is time to take action.”

High waters surround homes and businesses in the small town of Bucksport, South Carolina, U.S. as rivers continue to rise and flooded areas expand as a result of Hurricane Florence, September 24, 2018. Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/U.S. Army National Guard/Handout via REUTERS

High waters surround homes and businesses in the small town of Bucksport, South Carolina, U.S. as rivers continue to rise and flooded areas expand as a result of Hurricane Florence, September 24, 2018. Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/U.S. Army National Guard/Handout via REUTERS

COAL ASH POND COULD FLOOD

In neighboring Conway County, the Waccamaw, which was already well above flood stage on Tuesday, could inundate a coal ash pond that holds more than 200,000 tons of toxic ash, according to Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility.

Santee Cooper said it has removed more than 1 million tons of coal ash, which can contaminate water and harm fish and wildlife, from the site in the past few years.

The Waccamaw was forecast to crest on Thursday at 22 feet in Conway and at 21.2 feet in Georgetown, a representative with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said.

The potential flood zone encompasses roughly 3,500 homes in Georgetown, 37 miles (60 km) south of Myrtle Beach, and the coastal resort community of Pawleys Island where as many as 8,000 people live, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.

Authorities warned residents in harm’s way with recorded telephone messages and home visits. The county opened two emergency shelters on Monday, and hotels in nearby Myrtle Beach were offering discounts to evacuees. Public schools were closed until further notice.

FILE PHOTO: Water from the flooded Waccamaw River surrounds a house in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence now downgraded to a tropical depression in Conway, South Carolina, U.S. September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Randall

FILE PHOTO: Water from the flooded Waccamaw River surrounds a house in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence now downgraded to a tropical depression in Conway, South Carolina, U.S. September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Crews worked to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.

Florence dumped 30 to 40 inches (75 to 100 cm) of rain on Wilmington, North Carolina, alone.

Insured losses from Hurricane Florence will range from $2.8 billion to $5 billion, according to RMS, a risk modeling and analytics firm.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott, Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)

Waterways rise in South Carolina, residents told to leave

Flooding is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

By Harriet McLeod and Gene Cherry

CHARLESTON, S.C./RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – Authorities urged thousands of people to leave their homes around the city of Georgetown, South Carolina as water dumped by long-departed Hurricane Florence surged down rivers and threatened to bring devastating floods.

Water levels were still rising early on Tuesday, said emergency services there, more than a week after the storm first made landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast and killed 46 people mostly in North Carolina.

Parts of Georgetown could be submerged in up to 10 feet (3 meters) of floodwaters in the next few days as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overran their banks, said the National Weather Service.

The deluge threatened to cut off highways and isolate communities, they added.

“If the flood map … shows you are in an affected area, you need to leave,” Georgetown County Sheriff Lane Cribb said on Monday. “Your property can be replaced, but your life can’t.”

Authorities were sending recorded telephone messages to residents in harm’s way and will go door-to-door over the next two days, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.

The potential flood zone encompasses some 3,500 homes in Georgetown, 37 miles (60 km) south of Myrtle Beach, and the coastal resort community of Pawleys Island where as many as 8,000 people live, Broach-Akers said.

FLORENCE IMPACT “STILL WITH US”

The county opened two emergency shelters on Monday, and hotels outside the flood zone in nearby Myrtle Beach were offering discounts to evacuees. Public schools will be closed until further notice, Broach-Akers said.

State transportation crews were working to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.

The National Weather Service said flooding from Florence would likely persist in coastal parts of the Carolinas for days as the high-water crest of numerous rivers keeps moving downstream toward the ocean.

In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper said on Monday that seven rivers in the southeast part of the state were at major flood stages and three others at moderate flood stages.

“Florence is gone but the storm’s devastation is still with us,” Cooper said in a statement.

The storm dumped 30 to 40 inches (75 to 100 cm) of rain on Wilmington, North Carolina, alone after making landfall nearby on Sept. 14. The storm moved northwest before turning back east and becoming a post-tropical cyclone over West Virginia three days later.

Insured losses from Hurricane Florence will range from $2.8 billion to $5 billion, RMS, a risk modeling and analytics firm, said on Monday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Thousands urged to flee ahead of post-Florence flooding in South Carolina

Flooding is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

By Harriet McLeod and Gene Cherry

(Reuters) – As many as 8,000 people in and around the city of Georgetown, South Carolina, have been urged to evacuate ahead severe flooding expected this week from two rain-gorged rivers in what may be the final destructive chapter of Hurricane Florence.

Floodwaters of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m) are expected to inundate Georgetown and surrounding communities by late this week as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overurn their banks along the low-lying tidal flats where they converge at Winyah Bay, which flows into the Atlantic.

Emergency management officials began sending pre-recorded telephone messages to residents in harm’s way over the weekend, and will probably start going door-to-door in the next few days, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.

The potential flood zone encompasses some 3,500 homes in Georgetown, which lies at the confluence of the two rivers at the top of the bay, and the coastal resort community of Pawleys Island, she told Reuters.

She said the estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people who live in that area are being “strongly urged”, to leave on their own, although no mandatory evacuation has been ordered.

The county plans to open emergency shelters at 7 a.m. on Monday, and hotels outside the flood zone in nearby Myrtle Beach are offering discounts for evacuees. Public schools will be closed until further notice, Broach-Akers said.

State transportation crews were working to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.

“The water is still rising there,” said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. “It’s a matter of time before it subsides,” he said early on Monday.

Flooding, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

Flooding, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

HIGH WATER

About 100 miles (160 km) up the coast, a commercial section of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, by the Cape Fear River was under a foot of water, with flooding expected to rise by a further 2 feet with high tide on Sunday evening, city spokesman Dylan Lee said.

Flooding in Wilmington was expected to peak on Monday along the city’s Water Street riverfront, where many businesses had stacked sandbags in advance, Lee said. But the city said its offices would reopen on Monday after having been closed for a week.

Nine days after Florence came ashore, the National Weather Service said flooding would likely persist in coastal parts of the Carolinas for days as the high-water crest of numerous rivers keeps moving downstream toward the ocean.

“This isn’t over,” said Oravec. “All that water is going to take a good while to recede,” he said. “Damage can still be done. It’ll be a slow drop.”

The storm dumped 30 to 40 inches (75 to 100 cm) of rain on the Wilmington area alone after making landfall nearby on Sept. 14.

Floodwaters have begun to recede farther inland.

That left hundreds of dead fish stranded on a highway near Wallace, about 35 miles from the nearest beach, according to the Penderlea Fire Department, which posted video of firefighters hosing the fish off Interstate 40.

“Well, we can add ‘washing fish off of the interstate’ to the long list of interesting things firefighters get to experience!” the department said on Facebook.

Flooding is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

Flooding is seen in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media on September 21, 2018. ALAN CRADICK, CAPE FEAR RIVER WATCH/via REUTERS

Remnants of the once-mighty storm brought heavy rains across a swath of the country, prompting flood watches and warnings from Texas to Virginia and Maryland, at least through Monday, the weather service said.

About 5,000 people across North Carolina have been rescued by boat or helicopter since the storm made landfall, twice as many as in Hurricane Matthew two years ago, according to state officials. Thousands of people remained in shelters.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C. and Gene Cherry in Raleigh, N.C.; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Daniel Trotta in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Alison Williams)

Flooding on the horizon for South Carolina, a week after Florence

A closeup of flooded homes and roads near the River Landing Country Club, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, is seen in this satellite image over the area in Wallace, North Carolina, U.S., September 20, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Mehler Paperny

KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents in Georgetown County, South Carolina, where five rivers flow into the ocean, will prepare on Friday for a deluge of water in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which has killed more than 40 people.

Lying on Atlantic Ocean between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, the county of about 60,000 people is one of several areas across the Carolinas waiting anxiously for rivers to crest, a week after Florence dumped some three feet of rain in the region.

Flooding could begin early next week, officials said during a community meeting on Thursday. The city of Georgetown on Friday will hand out 15,000 sandbags as the county develops plans to evacuate residents.

Local residents walk along the edge of a collapsed road that ran atop Patricia Lake's dam after it collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Local residents walk along the edge of a collapsed road that ran atop Patricia Lake’s dam after it collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

“Please heed the warnings,” Sheriff Lane Cribb said. “Protecting lives and property will be our goal … You better pray. I think we all need to pray that it don’t happen.”

More than three dozen flood gauges in North and South Carolina showed flooding. Some rivers had still not crested by Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Thirty-one deaths have been attributed to the storm in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia.

Michael Ziolkowski, a Field Operations Supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit and his partner, Morty, are transported to support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, North Carolina, September 16, 2018. Spc. Austin T. Boucher/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

Michael Ziolkowski, a Field Operations Supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit and his partner, Morty, are transported to support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, North Carolina, September 16, 2018. Spc. Austin T. Boucher/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

Some 4,700 people across North Carolina have been rescued by boat or helicopter since the storm made landfall, twice as many as in Hurricane Matthew two years ago, according to state officials. About 10,000 remain in shelters.

The coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, remained cut off by floodwaters on Thursday. More than 200 roads across the state were closed or blocked as residents. Over 60,000 customers were without power in North Carolina early on Friday, according to Poweroutage.us.

As floodwaters continue to rise, concerns are growing about the environmental and health dangers lurking in the water.

The flooding has caused 21 hog “lagoons,” which store manure from pig farms, to overflow in North Carolina, creating a risk that standing water will be contaminated, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. North Carolina is one of the leading hog-producing states in the country.

Several sewer systems in the region also have released untreated or partly treated sewage and storm water into waterways over the last week, local media reported.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Kinston, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Conway, South Carolina, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Scott DiSavino in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; writing by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Larry King)

Hurricane raises questions about rebuilding along North Carolina’s coast

People work in the reconstruction of Rodanthe pier after being partially damaged after the pass of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression in Rodanthe, North Carolina, U.S., September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Anna Mehler Paperny

RODANTHE, N.C. (Reuters) – When Florence was raging last Friday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the hurricane tore a 40-foot (12-meter) chunk from a fishing pier that juts into the ocean at the state’s most popular tourist destination.

The privately owned Rodanthe pier has already undergone half a million dollars in renovation in seven years and the owners started a new round of repairs this week.

“The maintenance and upkeep on a wooden fishing pier is tremendous,” said co-owner Terry Plumblee. “We get the brunt of the rough water here.”

Scientists have warned such rebuilding efforts are futile as sea levels rise and storms chew away the coastline but protests from developers and the tourism industry have led North Carolina to pass laws that disregard the predictions.

The Outer Banks, a string of narrow barrier islands where Rodanthe is situated, may have been spared the worst of Florence, which flooded roads, smashed homes and killed at least 36 people across the eastern seaboard.

Still, the storm showed North Carolinians on this long spindly finger of land that ignoring the forces of nature to cling to their homes and the coast’s $2.4 billion economy may not be sustainable.

Some have called for halting oceanside development altogether.

“We need to actually begin an organized retreat from the rising seas,” said Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey.

In a government study published in 2010, scientists warned that sea levels could rise 39 inches by 2100

Higher sea level will cause more flooding and render some communities uninhabitable, as well as affect the ocean vegetation, jeopardize the dune systems that help stabilize the barrier islands, and cause more intense erosion when storms like Florence make landfall, scientists said.

Developers said the study was too theoretical to dictate policy.

Some argue policymakers do not need a 90-year projection to know something needs to change.

“When we have a hurricane, that shows everybody where their vulnerabilities are today, forget 100 years from now, but right now,” said Rob Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University who co-authored the study by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC).

Young said he would like to see development move back from the ocean’s edge and laments that homeowners and developers rebuild almost any structure damaged or destroyed by a bad storm.

But the idea of retreating is a tough sell for the people who live there and have invested in property.

“You’re asking us to say, ‘Hey, 4,000 or 5,000 people on little Hatteras Island, it’s time for you to pack up and move,’ and that’s not a reasonable expectation,” said Bobby Outten, manager for Dare County on the Outer Banks.

Opponents of using the CRC study to set policy said that most Outer Bank homeowners recognize the risks.

“If you’re buying on the coast, anyone that buys in an area surrounded by water, you’re always taking a risk that you’re going to have storm damage,” said Willo Kelly, who has worked in real estate for more than a decade.

Even though she acknowledges that sea levels are rising, Kelly is also among those who opposed making state policy decisions, including anything affecting home insurance or property values, based on the study’s dire 90-year forecast of sea-level rise.

Kelly supported a 2012 state law that banned North Carolina from using the 90-year prediction on rising sea levels to influence coastal development policy.

The CRC released a second report in 2015 predicting sea level rise over a 30-year period, instead of 90 years. The new report was praised by developers as being more realistic and said sea levels would rise 1.9 to 10.6 inches. (https://bit.ly/2xyGDVr)

The 2012 law was welcomed by the development community and panned by scientists whose warnings, they felt, were going unheeded. Members of the legislature who sponsored the bill did not return requests for comment.

After this year’s storm demolished the sandy protective berms that stand between the water and the main coastal road, the state sent backhoes to rebuild them and officials to assess damage to bridges and roads.

“There’s also a sense of denial,” said Gavin Smith, director of the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Resilience Center, adding that with rising seas and more intense storms it will be more costly and more difficult to replace infrastructure.

Rodanthe Pier was lucky this time, sustaining only moderate damage, said Clive Thompson, 58, who works at the pier. In the past, nor’easters have ripped its end from the ground and tore pilings from sand.

The beach was not so lucky. The ocean ate away about 50 meters of what used to be dry sand above the high-tide line, he said.

“It’s a waste of man-hours, time and money, having to do this over and over,” he said. “One day I hope people understand the power of water. … It don’t play.”

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Trump pledges strong federal support for hurricane-stricken Carolinas

U.S. President Donald Trump greets people while distributing food after Hurricane Florence in New Bern North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jeff Mason and Ernest Scheyder

HAVELOCK/WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised that North and South Carolina would have strong federal support as they recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Florence, whose floodwaters continue to threaten the region.

“We’re going to be there 100 percent,” Trump told officials at a briefing shortly after arriving at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina. “… There will be nothing left undone. You’ll have everything you need.”

Trump, who has been criticized for his handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, also thanked first responders for their work since Florence made landfall on Friday and recapped the efforts to get food to residents and restore power.

He was accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

More than 15,000 people remain in shelters and more than 200,000 customers are without power across North Carolina because of Florence, which came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, according to state officials.

Although the storm is long gone, river flooding still poses a danger to the area. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest at 61.5 feet (19 meters), four times its normal height, on Wednesday in Fayetteville, a city of 200,000 near the Fort Bragg army base in the southern part of the state, according to the National Weather Service. That has disrupted efforts to restore power, clear roads and allow evacuated residents to go home.

“There is a strong potential that those who live within the 1-mile evacuation area of the Cape Fear River will be impacted by flooding,” the city said in a statement.

The city manager told CNN that 12,000 people are “in harm’s way.”

Florence has killed at least 36 people, including 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia. Two of the South Carolina victims were mental health patients who drowned on Tuesday when a van carrying them was swept away by floodwater.

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SWOLLEN RIVERS

Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas. Fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage resulting from Florence, which has dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain in parts of North Carolina since Thursday.

At least 16 rivers remained at a major flood stage, with three others set to crest in the coming days in North Carolina, the state said.

In the town of Fair Bluff, North Carolina, which has struggled to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, only about 50 residents remained on Tuesday, Fair Bluff Police Chief Chris Chafin told Reuters.

The town has largely been cut off by flooding from the still-rising Lumber River, which was expected to crest on Wednesday.

As Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas last week, Trump reignited the controversy over his handling of Maria by disputing the official death toll of 2,975 in the U.S. territory, which was compiled by public health experts at George Washington University. Trump said, without offering evidence, that Democrats had inflated the figure to make him look bad.

Maria also devastated the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, whose 3 million citizens are Americans but do not vote in presidential elections, and left much of the island without power for months. Critics said the Trump administration was slow to recognize the extent of the damage and slow to help.

Former basketball star Michael Jordan, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association, donated $2 million to the Florence recovery effort, the team said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Patrick Rucker; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Miami; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott; Editing by David Stamp and Paul Simao)

Hurricane Florence makes landfall, set to inundate Carolinas

Water from Neuse River floods houses as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence, weakened but still dangerous, crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.

The center of the hurricane’s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Flood waters are seen in Belhaven, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Courtesy of Ben Johnson/via REUTERS

Flood waters are seen in Belhaven, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Courtesy of Ben Johnson/via REUTERS

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence was set to cover almost all of the state in several feet of water.

As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks barrier island chain, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said.

On the mainland in New Bern, authorities said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. The town’s public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue and that citizens were going out in their

boats to help, despite blowing waters and swift currents.

“WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” New Bern city officials said on Twitter. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.”

There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries but more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse, local officials said.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months’ worth of rain in two or three days.

More than 440,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina early on Friday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks.

The roof of a house is seen affected by winds from Hurricane Florence as it hits the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The roof of a house is seen affected by winds from Hurricane Florence as it hits the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore. But forecasters said its extreme size meant it could batter the U.S. East Coast with hurricane-force winds for nearly a full day.

It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Almost 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Cooper said.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.

“I had a lot of fear initially but I’m glad to be inside and safe,” said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington’s Hotel Ballast with her husband.

“I’m worried about what I might find when I go home, though,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)