Hurricane Matthew death toll rises to 20 after Lenoir County fatality

Posted October 12, 2016 9:24 a.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2016 5:08 p.m. EDT

— Three more Hurricane Mattew-related deaths, including a man who was swept away by water on Sunday, were reported on Wednesday, bringing North Carolina's total number of deaths to 20 since the storm began.

Gov. Pat McCrory said a 51-year-old man was swept away Sunday by Johnston County floodwaters while he was walking, and his body was just recovered; another person died in Wayne County while trying to drive through high water.

McCrory said Wednesday afternoon that he had received confirmation of a storm-related death in Lenoir County. Authorities said the person died while walking around in the aftermath of the storm.

The newly reported deaths come amid worries of rising water levels in rivers around eastern North Carolina. Parts of the Neuse River are expected to crest on Wednesday, eventually reaching record levels, which could flood Goldsboro, McCrory said at a press conference. The Tar River in Tarboro is also expected to peak.

"Each of these areas has plenty of notice (of the rising water). ... Hopefully (residents) are leaving," McCrory said.

More than 2,000 rescues have been performed since flooding forced people out of their homes and businesses, including 80 air rescues by the National Guard, North Carolina State Highway Patrol and United States Coast Guard.

More than 3,800 people are still staying in the 43 shelters open across the state, while 34 school systems remain closed.

Getting people out of shelters is a "major priority," McCrory said. But the process, he cautioned, is going to be a slow one as people work to clean up their homes and electric utilities turn on power for the remaining 143,000 customers without it.

"Its a lot of coordination, a lot of work and a lot of money," McCrory said.