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As Florence made landfall on the coast of North Carolina Friday, a city about a hundred miles north was among the worst hit areas so far, with about 150 people stranded and 200 already rescued, officials said.
“People surrounding me are under water. They have been trapped in their attics,” said Tonya Moore, a New Bern resident, who was awaiting rescue with her mother, husband and five children ranging in age from 6 to 16. Their home had not yet flooded but was impossible to flee, and officials told her the area could expect up to 30 feet of water.
“Every road is flooded. There’s nowhere to get out over here,” Moore said, adding that there was a National Guard bus waiting to take people to shelters, but it’s a mile away, and the roads surrounding it are all flooded.
“We have to walk in waist-deep water to get to this bus that’s leaving in an hour,” she said.
New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said on “Today” that officials are “making every effort to expeditiously as we can to get these folks to a shelter.”
“Be patient, we’re on the way. We will get you rescued — all 150. So just bear with us because we have to be so careful that our first responders are not put in harm’s way in this type of weather,” Outlaw said, lateradding that many people would have to be rescued by boat.
“A lot of our staff have not had sleep for 36 hours now. They’re very tired but they’re very tenacious. They’re going to make it happen. It’s going to happen. We’re going to get these folks back in a safe shelter,” Outlaw said.
“We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” said a tweet from the city of New Bern.
New Bern Police issued a 24-hour curfew starting at 7 a.m. Friday as emergency officials rushed to pluck people from their flooded homes.
A New Bern tweet said residents could expect the potentially deadly mix of high winds, storm surge, rainfall and flooding.
About half of the residents in the city of about 30,000 were without power, according to the latest numbers from New Bern. Nearly 500,000 customers in the entire state are without power.
As the Category 1 storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service announced tornado warnings in a swath of North Carolina, including New Bern.
“Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless. It is an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave. The storm surge alone has overwhelmed the city of New Bern,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news conference Friday. He added rivers would continue to rise for days after the rain stops, which is not expected to happen for at least 24 hours.
Chris Wamsley, a NWS meteorologist, said residents of the Carolinas could expect the same amount of rain that hurricanes Dennis and Floyd produced in 1999. “The only difference is back then it was within 14 days, and we’re looking at the same amount of rainfall in three days,” he said.
Elisha Fieldstadt and Shamar Walters
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