Florence continued its torrential roll through the Carolinas on Saturday, with the death toll rising to at least six people, winds blowing up to 50 miles an hour and officials fearing that the worst damage was yet to come.
In an morning briefing, the head of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, said the storm’s slow churn made it particularly dangerous, dumping repeated bands of water on place like Surf City and Jacksonville, N.C. Some cities have already received 30 inches of rain, he said. “Which is absolutely staggering, and we’re not done yet.”The hurricane center said the storm was about 40 miles from Myrtle Beach, with strong gales extending out about 150 miles.
Forecasters are predicting record rainfall as high as 40 inches, with an additional 10 to 15 inches still expected in some areas of North and South Carolina. The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday. Wind speeds dropped to 50 miles an hour by 5 a.m. Saturday, but fierce rains were likely to produce “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the National Hurricane Center said. Nearly a million people have lost power.
With up to 20 inches of rain forecast, roads were flooded in some low-lying areas and along stream and river banks. Emergency authorities warned that widespread flooding was still a threat as the trailing bands of Florence swept past the city into South Carolina.
On Water Street along the Cape Fear waterfront downtown, rivulets of water began to form early Saturday. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the river was expected to crest next week. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said the Cape Fear River could cause inland flooding as severe as it did during Hurricane Matthew, which inundated several eastern North Carolina towns in 2016.