NC struggling to recover after Florence brings historic flooding, 32 deaths

(AP/FOX 46) It's not every day you see a boat riding down a street, but this is reality for people living up and down the North Carolina coast as historic flooding is overtaking several communities.  

In Scotts Hill just outside of Wilmington, several people have been cut off, stuck for days without power or any way to get out. 

"Never-ever seen it like this. I've been here for 18 years,” Kim Saffo said. 

Her family has been living without power ever since Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday as a Category 1 storm.  

"It has been pretty chaotic,” she said. "It was torrential rain for days,” said Saffo.

Emergency crews have been delivering food and water to communities in and around Wilmington, while rescuers picked up more people stranded by Florence and the storm’s remnants.

Downgraded from a tropical depression, the deadly storm still had abundant rain and top winds around 25 mph. Forecasters said it was expected to continue toward the Northeast, which is in for as much as doue inches of rain, before the system moves offshore again.

The death toll climbed to 32, with 25 fatalities in North Carolina, as authorities found the body of a 1-year-old boy who was swept away after his mother drove into floodwaters and lost her grip on him while trying to get back to dry land. Elsewhere in North Carolina, an 88-year-old man died after his car was swept away. Authorities in Virginia said one person was dead after an apparent tornado.

RELATED: Several evacuees stuck in Charlotte after Florence

For days, crews have been using helicopters and boats to rescue people trapped by still-rising rivers.

“Thank you,” a frazzled, shirtless Willie Schubert mouthed to members of a Coast Guard helicopter crew who plucked him and his dog Lucky from atop a house encircled by water in Pollocksville. It was not clear how long he had been stranded.

"No one could get in and you couldn't get out,” Saffo said of her Scotts Hill neighborhood. 

Crews have conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where more than 60 percent of homes and businesses were without power, authorities said.

Saffo says her family has been showing in water outside of their home while they remain without power.

On Monday, authorities reopened a single unidentified road into Wilmington, but it wasn’t clear if that the route would remain open as the Cape Fear River kept swelling, and officials did not say when other roads might be clear.

In some places, the rain finally stopped, and the sun peeked through, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that dangerously high water would persist for days. He urged residents who were evacuated from the hardest-hit areas to stay away because of closed roads and catastrophic flooding that submerged entire communities.

"Day by day. Do what you can,” David Meier, also of Scotts Hill said. 

Meier told FOX 46 how a tree nearly took out his home. a home he lives in with his, 97-year old father.

"He's lived here all his life."

He’s a father who's seen a lot, but nothing, quite like this. Neighbors in the small coastal community understand, this is an important picture of what Florence is leaving behind.

"[I] hope and pray the water goes down,” Meier said. 

In many areas, the water remains high, and there's plenty to clean up and rebuild, but government officials say they’re ready to get to work.

The chairman of New Hanover County’s commissioners, Woody White, said three centers would open by Tuesday morning to begin distributing essentials to residents.

“Things are getting better slowly, and we thank God for that,” White said.

Mayor Bill Saffo said he was working with the governor’s office to get more fuel into Wilmington.
“At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city,” he said.

Crews have conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where more than 60 percent of homes and businesses were without power, authorities said.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said almost 20,000 military personnel and federal workers were deployed to help with the aftermath.

“We will do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe,” Trump said.

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