WILMINGTON/FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents of the Carolinas struggled to return to normalcy on Tuesday after taking a beating from Hurricane Florence, but their efforts were hindered by standing water and additional flooding expected from already swollen rivers.
At least 32 people have been killed since Florence came ashore as a hurricane on Friday, including 25 in North Carolina and six in South Carolina. One person was killed when Florence spawned at least 16 tornadoes on Monday in Virginia, where dozens of buildings were destroyed, the National Weather Service reported.
Waterways were expected to keep rising on Tuesday in places like Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city of 200,000 in the southern part of the state, according to the weather service, hampering efforts to restore power, clear roads and return to homes.
More than 1,100 roads were still closed across North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper said on Tuesday, including portions of Interstates 40 and 95. Sixteen rivers in the state have reached major flood stages, with three more expected to peak in the next two days, he said.
“Road conditions are starting to improve in some parts of our state, but rising creeks, streams and rivers continue to make travel unsafe,” he said in a news conference.
Officials said residents should not attempt to return to the counties along the state’s coast around Wilmington yet due to ongoing risk of flooding.
The storm dumped more than 8 trillion gallons (30 trillion liters) of rain on North Carolina, the weather service said. On Tuesday, the storm’s remnants were continuing to soak the mid-Atlantic region and southern New England with heavy rain.
Property damage from the storm is expected to come to $17 billion to $22 billion, the risk management firm Moody’s Analytics said. Further flooding could push up that figure.
The risk modeling agency Air Worldwide on Tuesday said insured losses from Florence’s winds and storm surge will range from $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion. Those figures do not include losses from continuing flooding.
President Donald Trump is expected to travel to the region on Wednesday, CNN and local news media reported.
ROAD CONDITIONS ‘STILL CHANGING’
Fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage after Florence dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain on the state since Thursday.
“Road conditions are still changing,” the North Carolina Department of Transportation wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “What’s open now may become impassable.”
Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas, and more than 650 people were taken to safety in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, said Barbi Baker, a spokeswoman for New Hanover County.
The coastal city took a direct hit when Hurricane Florence came ashore and has been largely cut off since then due to storm surges and flooding from the Cape Fear River.
A portion of a motel collapsed from the weight of water, which made only the roof of the Starlite Motel visible in Spring Lake in Cumberland County, said Sherita Brooks of the county’s Division of Social Services.
More than 347,000 customers, mostly in the Carolinas, were without power on Tuesday morning, according to power companies, down from a peak of nearly 1 million outages.
North Carolina’s Emergency Management department has opened four mass feeding kitchens and has plans to open four more shortly.
Gasoline shortages were a problem. In Wilmington, dozens of cars lined up for fuel at a Kangaroo Express service station.
“It is ridiculous that we don’t have enough fuel supplies back in this area,” Stephanie Schauer, 39, a contractor, said as she waited her turn at the gas pump. “It’s been days since the storm.”