RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/WBTV/AP) – Gov. Pat McCrory said on Tuesday that there have now been at least 14-storm related deaths due to Hurricane Matthew.
McCrory said at Tuesday’s press conference that he was “distraught” about the loss of life.
The governor said a federal disaster declaration has been approved for 31 counties.
“This expedited declaration will help provide much needed and immediate federal assistance to communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew” McCrory said.
Monday, the fatality county from Hurricane Matthew was at 11. The three new reported fatalities happened in Wilson County, Cumberland County and Wake County.
McCrory said a man was killed in Wake County when a tree fell on his car on his drive home from work. The deaths in Wilson and Cumberland County occurred when people became submerged in their cars.
The Associated Press reported the following details surrounding the previous 11 deaths:
- Two people were killed Saturday in Bladen County when a car traveled through a washed-out road.
- One in Sampson County on Saturday when a male driver hydroplaned his vehicle and struck a tree.
- One in Rowan County on Saturday when a female victim died in a storm-related house fire. No other details were provided.
- One in Wilson County on Saturday when a vehicle drove into flood waters.
- One in Pitt County on Sunday when a female drove into standing water.
- One in Johnston County on Sunday when a vehicle was swept away when the driver went across a flood-covered bridge.
- One in Johnston County on Sunday when a vehicle traveling through flood waters ran off the road. Three people in the car were rescued and one other person is missing.
- One in Johnston County on Sunday when a vehicle traveling on Interstate 95 was swept off the road and into Hannah Creek.
- One in Harnett County when a male driver drove around a barricade and into flood waters. The state did not release a date for that death.
- One in Gates County, where the body of a 75-year-old man was located Monday inside a car discovered as flood waters began to recede. The man was considered missing Sunday, with his cellphone’s last contact traced to a flood area of N.C. Highway 32 near Gatesville.
Matthew left behind flooding, power outages and residents who went missing or who were in need of being rescued from their homes.
The governor said Tuesday that there has already been more than 2,000 water rescues using 79 boat crews across the central and eastern portions of the state. The majority of the rescues have been in Robeson and Cumberland counties. FEMA Swift Water Rescue teams have executed the rescues.
There have been 26 rescues by North Carolina helicopter rescue teams, seven of which occurred overnight.
To date, 94 air rescues have been made by the U.S. Coast Guard, McCrory said.
On Monday, Cumberland County officials said initial reports had four people are unaccounted for due to high water.
Three of those originally reported as missing have been found.
McCrory said Tuesday that three people are still missing — two in Cumberland County and one in Johnston County.
Many of those reported missing were in areas with high flood waters.
There has been concern about dams breaching and levees breaking throughout central and eastern North Carolina following torrential rains that dumped as much as 15 inches on Goldsboro and more than a foot in Fayetteville.
Evacuations are currently underway in parts Greeneville, where McCrory says “the airport is flooding as we speak.” Other areas of focus are the town of Princeville, in Edgecombe County, where McCrory says the next 24 hours will be “difficult.”
“Get out. Get out now,” McCrory said to those in the area of Woodlake Dam in Moore County.
“Right now we’re hearing that there may be 50 or 60 people who are refusing the evacuation orders and as governor, that is unacceptable. You are putting not only your life at jeopardy, you are putting our emergency rescue crews at jeopardy. And maybe you’re hoping that there won’t be an issue, but there could well be an issue that could result in the same conditions that we’re having in Lumberton,” he added.
Although the governor explicitly said in his press conference that people near Woodlake Dam needed to evacuate, Town of Spring Lake officials said Tuesday morning that Woodlake Dam, which had been considered ‘at risk of imminent failure,’ had been stabilized and no further evacuations would be ordered.
Evacuations in Moore County near the dam, which is located on Lake Surf, began on Monday after the National Weather Service said the dam was at ‘extreme risk’ of failure following “issues” discovered by inspectors. The National Weather Service then said Tuesday that the dam could fail at any time and issued a flash flood warning for the communities near the dam.
Spring Lake official Carrie DeGarmo sent out a news release late Monday stating that they had issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents and businesses along the Lower Little River downstream from the dam.
The areas included in the mandatory evacuation were Bragg the Estates community on Vass Road, residents on West Manchester Road from the old Fort Bragg Water Treatment Plant to N.C. Highway 87, and the Riverside Mobile Home Park along the Lower Little River in Spring Lake.
According to the press release from Spring Lake, communities downstream from the dam could see two to three feet of additional flooding in the event of a dam failure.
Brooks said that crews worked until about 2 a.m. Tuesday to get sandbags in place to reduce the threat at the dam. Brooks said crews would be out again later Tuesday morning to finish. He said the work will need to be inspected before residents can return home.
Brooks said he doesn’t know how quickly that inspection can occur.
The Town of Princeville was evacuated Monday over fears that the Tar River could crest and flood the town.
A bridge connects Tarboro and Princeville and there was concern that if the water rises too much on the Tar River it will flood into Princeville.
Princeville has seen it happen before with Hurricane Floyd — and that’s why a mandatory evacuation order was issued.
The water level of the Tar River was already very high Monday. Officials expected it to peak between 8 and 10 a.m. Tuesday, but Edgecombe County’s Assistant County Manager William Johnson said computer models showed that it actually crested at 6 a.m.
Officials are still monitoring the situation to make sure that’s the case. There is still a risk and officials will meet Tuesday to assess the situation.
The Lumber River crested 4 feet above its record level Sunday in Lumberton and was forecast to remain there until Saturday. A levee appeared to fail early Monday, but officials later concluded that floodwaters had flowed around it.
River flooding was happening in other places, too. In the tiny town of Nichols, South Carolina, downstream from Lumberton, at least 100 people spent the night on the third floor of the town hall.
Interstate 95 — a major artery for the East Coast — was closed in Lumberton and engineers had no estimate on when it would reopen. Driving was difficult, if not impossible because hundreds of roads were closed, in some cases isolating entire towns. Dozens of school districts and East Carolina University canceled classes for the entire week. Nearly 1 million people in North Carolina and South Carolina were without power, two days after the eye of the hurricane moved out to sea.
Matthew’s flooding in North Carolina was made worse by heavy rains in September. Many areas east of I-95 got at least twice their normal amount of rain in September, in part because the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia parked off the coast for several days.
McCrory said officials are preparing for new flooding in Edgecombe, Pitt, Lenoir, Pender ,Green and other counties.
In many areas, Matthew’s aftermath was compared to Hurricane Floyd, which caused $3 billion in damage and destroyed 7,000 homes as it skirted the coast in 1999.
An update on power outages puts around 282,000 homes without power in the state.