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Published: 2010-10-02 12:40:00
Updated: 2010-10-02 23:28:51
Posted October 2, 2010 12:40 p.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2010 11:28 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Rivers and creeks were beginning to recede Saturday after a massive storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain in some places and caused widespread flooding in eastern North Carolina this week.
"Conditions are expected to continue to improve in the next few days," according to the North Carolina State Emergency Response Team. "Still, many roads remain flooded and emergency management officials are urging motorists to avoid driving in areas with standing water."
Eight storm-related fatalities have been reported; all were the result of vehicle crashes. Five family members died after their vehicle hydroplaned in Washington County, one fatality was reported in Pamlico County and two more were reported in Dare County.
The Neuse River began cresting Saturday in Smithfield. The water is expected to be slightly above flood stage on Monday in Kinston and Goldsboro.
Several other rivers have not yet crested and emergency officials are keeping a close eye on those areas. The Lumber River near Lumberton is close to a major flood stage and was expected to crest late Saturday. The northeast Cape Fear River near Burgaw remains at moderate to major flood stage and should also crest soon.
State swift water rescue teams, N.C. National Guard, State Highway Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard teams have rescued more than 250 people from flooded houses and cars since Tropical Storm Nicole dumped between 5 and 23 inches of rain on eastern North Carolina earlier this week.
Four state swift water rescue teams have been working almost around the clock since late Thursday. Most of the rescues were made in Bertie County, but crews also were working in Beaufort, Craven, Hertford and Pender counties.
In the past week, much of Eastern North Carolina has experienced flood levels not seen since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Initial reports indicate Bertie County sustained the most damage, according to the state emergency response team.
"Most of the downtown (Windsor) area has been devastated, ruined, as it did in 1999,” Windsor Town Commissioner Joe Alexander said Saturday.
Alexander said the water level in Windsor dropped about 2.5 feet between sunrise and lunchtime Saturday.
More than 40 residents were taken out of a Windsor nursing home Friday. In addition, partial evacuations were issued for Bertie, Beaufort, Craven, Duplin and Pender counties to get people in low-lying areas to safety.
Four shelters remain open with 35 residents. Approximately 50 homes and businesses are still without power, down from a peak outage of 70,000 yesterday, according to state officials.
"Most of the folks here (Windsor) are going to rebuild. They’re here for life,” Alexander said.
Watch out for unpassable roads
All interstates remain open, but the N.C. Department of Transportation reports that dozens of roads and bridges remain closed throughout eastern North Carolina.
Some lanes of U.S Highway 17 were closed between Windsor and Williamston in Bertie County, south of Maysville in Jones County and north of Jacksonville in Onslow County. Also, portions of U.S. Highway 158 near Winton and U.S. 13 south of Ahoskie in Hertford County were closed Saturday afternoon.
Several N.C. routes are closed as well, including: N.C. 133 near Belville, N.C. 50 east of Wallace, N.C. 561 near Harrelsville and east of Ahoskie, N.C. 111 southwest of Jacksonville, N.C. 172 near Swansboro, N.C. 50 near Holly Ridge and N.C. 32 west of Creswell.
Government help may be available
Gov. Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency late Wednesday in anticipation of flood damages in central and eastern counties. The declaration allowed the governor to mobilize state emergency and protective measures such as the use of the N.C. National Guard, State Highway Patrol, N.C. Department of Transportation, opening shelters and providing other resources as needed.
Local emergency management crews will conduct initial damage assessments Saturday and Sunday and submit their estimates to N.C. Emergency Management. Early estimates indicate more than 260 homes and businesses have been flooded. Agricultural damage estimates in Duplin County alone are expected to exceed $1 million.
State and federal damage assessment teams will work with the local crews beginning Tuesday to conduct more thorough damage assessments for all counties impacted by the recent rains and flooding. More definitive damage estimate totals are expected to be completed late next week.
Residents and business owners who have incurred damage from this week’s floods should contact their insurance company. Uninsured residents and business owners should contact their county emergency management office.