Flooding fears surge as rivers rise; Wilmington cut off

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Catastrophic flooding from Florence spread across the Carolinas on Sunday, with roads to Wilmington cut off by the epic deluge and muddy river water swamping entire neighborhoods miles inland. "The risk to life is rising with the angry waters," Gov. Roy Cooper declared as the storm's death toll climbed to 17.

The storm continued to crawl westward, dumping more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) of rain in spots since Friday, and fears of historic flooding grew. Tens of thousands were ordered evacuated from communities along the state's steadily rising rivers — with the Cape Fear, Little River, Lumber, Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers all projected to burst their banks.

In Wilmington , with roads leading in and out of the city underwater and streams still swelling upward, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants for basic necessities like water. Police guarded the door of one store, and only 10 people were allowed inside at a time.

RELATED: Destruction caused by Hurricane Florence

42 PHOTOS
Destruction caused by Hurricane Florence
See Gallery
Destruction caused by Hurricane Florence
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Neighborhoods are flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Homes are flooded after a storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nuese and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
An abandoned mini van sits on a flooded road near New Bern, NC on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris lies on the ground at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station damaged during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fallen tree lies in front of a home during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fallen tree lies in front of a home during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Residents walk along a street blocked by a fallen tree during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Neighborhoods are flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A house is seen destroyed from falling trees as hurricane Florence passes over in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A downed tree can be seen on Middle Street by the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A father and daughter learn that friends were injured and later died when a tree fell on their house during landfall of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. - A mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina, the first reported fatalities from Hurricane Florence, police said Friday. Wilmington police tweeted that the father was transported to the hospital with unspecified injuries. Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington on Friday morning, battering the coastal city with strong winds and torrential rain. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, NC- SEPTEMBER 14: An unidentified women reacts to news of a home that a large tree fell on with three trapped after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 14, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. One man was taken out of the home in critical condition. Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington as a category 1 storm causing widespread damage and flooding along the Carolina coastline. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Flood waters from the Trent River inundate a park in Pollocksville, North Carolina on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A vehicle sits submerged in floodwaters due to Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Florences�plodding pace and catastrophic flooding could produce as much as $20 billion in damage and has already caused at least six deaths, even as it has weakened to a tropical storm. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 15: Mike Pollack searches for a drain in the yard of his flooded waterfront home a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm Friday and at least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, which continues to produce heavy rain and strong winds extending out nearly 200 miles. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Debris lies on the ground at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station damaged during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Florences�plodding pace and catastrophic flooding could produce as much as $20 billion in damage and has already caused at least six deaths, even as it has weakened to a tropical storm. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Flood waters lap at a high water warning sign that was partially pushed over by Hurricane Florence on Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
An abandoned car's hazard lights continue to flash as it sits submerged in a rising flood waters during pre-dawn hours after Hurricane Florence struck in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A street light is downed on a flooded road as Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Water from the Neuse river floods the streets during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The Union Point Park Complex is seen flooded as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A downed tree rests on a house during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S. September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A downed tree rests on a house during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Boats pushed away from the dock are seen on a street during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Rescue personnel use a small transport a flood victim and her animals to dry land from heavy rains from Florence, now a tropical storm, in New Bern, NC., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A sailboat is shoved up against a house and a collapsed garage Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, after heavy wind and rain from Florence, now a tropical storm, blew through New Bern, N.C. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A pickup truck drives on a flooded road past a farm house that is surrounded by flooded fields from tropical storm Florence in Hyde County, NC., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A downed tree uprooted by Hurricane Florence lies next to homes in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)
Resident Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)
FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy from the Sutton Lake landing in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington. (AP Photo/Randall Hill, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo provided by DroneBase, an aerial view of the Cape Fear River, N.C., in Buckhorn, N.C. is shown ahead of Hurricane Florence. Record flooding is expected on North Carolina's Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (DroneBase via AP, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 file photo, a man jogs down the boardwalk by the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. Record flooding is expected on Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, Joe Gore, left, and Joshua Adcock prepare for Hurricane Florence as they board up windows on a home in Emerald Isle N.C. Before and after a hurricane, Ace is the place. And Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many other hardware and building supply outlets. Not surprisingly, these companies plan for storms such as Hurricane Florence all year. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland, File)
Residents of an assisted living facility are evacuated to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team help load an elderly resident onto a bus as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ernestine Crumpler, 80, is helped by members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Residents of an assisted living facility sit on a bus as they are evacuated to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team help load an elderly resident onto a bus as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Woody White, chairman of the board of commissioners of New Hanover County, said officials were planning for food and water to be flown into the coastal city of nearly 120,000 people.

"Our roads are flooded," he said. "There is no access to Wilmington."

About 70 miles (115 kilometers) away from the coast, residents near the Lumber River stepped from their homes directly into boats floating in their front yards; river forecasts showed the scene could be repeated in towns as far as 250 miles (400 kilometers) inland as waters rise for days.

Downgraded overnight to a tropical depression, Florence was still massive. But with radar showing parts of the storm over six Southeastern states and flood worries spreading into southern Virginia and West Virginia, North and South Carolina were still in the bull's-eye.

Half way around the world, meanwhile, Typhoon Mangkhut barreled into southern China on Sunday after lashing the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left dozens dead. More than 2.4 million people were evacuated from China's southern Guangdong province ahead of the massive typhoon, the strongest to hit the region in nearly two decades.

In North Carolina, fears of what could be the worst flooding in the state's history led officials to order tens of thousands to evacuate, though it wasn't clear how many had fled or even could. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said officials were focused on finding people and rescuing them.

"We'll get through this. It'll be ugly, but we'll get through it," Long told NBC's "Meet The Press."

President Donald Trump said federal emergency workers, first responders and law enforcement officials were "working really hard." As the storm "begins to finally recede, they will kick into an even higher gear. Very Professional!" he declared in a tweet.

The storm's death toll climbed to at least 17 when a 3-month-old child was killed when a tree fell across a mobile home in North Carolina. Earlier, officials said three people died in separate, weather-related traffic accidents in South Carolina.

Victor Merlos was overjoyed to find a store open for business in Wilmington since he had about 20 relatives staying at his apartment, which still had power. He spent more than $500 on cereal, eggs, soft drinks and other necessities, plus beer.

"I have everything I need for my whole family," said Merlos. Nearby, a Waffle House restaurant limited breakfast customers to one biscuit and one drink, all take-out, with the price of $2 per item.

Kenneth Campbell had donned waterproof waders intending to check out his home in Lumberton , but he didn't bother when he saw the Coast Guard and murky waters in his neighborhood.

"I'm not going to waste my time. I already know," he said.

As rivers swelled, state regulators and environmental groups were monitoring the threat from gigantic hog and poultry farms located in low-lying, flood-prone areas.

The industrial-scale farms contain vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters. In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in floodwaters.

RELATED: Hurricane Florence makes landfall 

60 PHOTOS
Hurricane Florence makes landfall
See Gallery
Hurricane Florence makes landfall
IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 14: In this NOAA satellite handout image , shows Hurricane Florence as it made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. The National Hurricane Center reported Florence had sustained winds of 90 mph at landfall and was moving slowly westward at 6 mph. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - SEPTEMBER 14: Storm clouds are seen over the 2nd ave pier as the force of Hurricane Florence is beginning to be felt on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, United States. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline bringing high winds and rain. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A car goes through a flooded street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - SEPTEMBER 14: Clouds are seen over a deserted Ocean blvd as the force of Hurricane Florence is felt on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, United States. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline bringing high winds and rain. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A car goes through a flooded street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A flooded street is seen as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence hits in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A car goes through a flooded street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: People try cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A man tries to cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: People try cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: People try cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: US military vehicle goes through a flooded street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA, USA - SEPTEMBER 13: A man tries to cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People walk on a local street as water from Neuse River starts flooding houses upon Hurricane Florence coming ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A member of the U.S. Army walks through floodwaters near the Union Point Park Complex as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Water from Neuse River starts flooding houses as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The Bank of America is seen covered in plywood as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Docks broken by water from Neuse River are seen floating as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The Union Point Park Complex is seen flooded as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Water from Neuse River floods houses as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - SEPTEMBER 14: Linda Stephens checks out the weather as the force of Hurricane Florence is beginning to be felt on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, United States. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline bringing high winds and rain. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A tree bends from the heavy rain and wind from Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Jeremiah Johnson, a front desk clerk at the Sleep Inn in Jacksonville, North Carolina, attempts to reattach the front doors of the hotel on September 14, 2018, after the hotel lost power in the evening during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team rescue a man with chest pains from his flooded home September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The roof of a house is seen affected by winds from Hurricane Florence as it hits the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Children sit and play games in a hotel lobby that has lost its power as Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - SEPTEMBER 14: A damaged awning is seen as winds from Hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, United States. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline bringing high winds and rain. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a truck to move people rescued from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a truck to move people rescued from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteer Amber Hersel from the Civilian Crisis Response Team carries 7-year-old Keiyana Cromartie after she and her family were rescued from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JAMES CITY, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rain water flooded streets are pictured as Hurricane Florence moves into the Carolinas in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Roselle Chen
People walk in the rain water flooded streets as Hurricane Florence moves into the Carolinas in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Roselle Chen
Palm trees blow in the wind as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence make landfall on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Alex Edelman / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Mitchell Floor, left, holds a flashlight as Comfort Suites general manager Beth Bratz, center, and employee Dee Branch go to make coffee as Hurricane Florence rages in Wilmington, N.C. Thursday Sept. 14, 2018. The area lost power around 4 a.m. and the facility was running small lights, phone chargers and the coffee machine on a generator. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
 

Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels. The Defense Department said about 13,500 military personnel had been assigned to help relief efforts.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the North Carolina coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the river. Rain-soaked furniture workers helped him quickly empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse in a low-lying strip mall.

"It's the first time we've ever had to move anything like this," Rose said. "If the river rises to the level they say it's going to, then this warehouse is going to be under water."

Fayetteville city officials, meanwhile, got help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate 140 residents of an assisted-living facility to a safer location at a church.

Rainfall totals were stunning.

In Swansboro, North Carolina, nearly 34 inches (85 centimeters) of rain had fallen by Sunday afternoon and 20 other places in North Carolina had at least 20 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Another 30 sites in North and Carolina had at least 10 inches (25 centimeters).

Water on the Cape Fear River near Chinquapin got so high that electronic instruments used to monitor flooding quit working after it became submerged, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The same thing happened on the Trent River.

Still, there was some good news: Power outages in the Carolinas and Virginia were down to about 580,000 homes and businesses after reaching a high of about 910,000 as the hurricane plowed into the coast. Utilities said some outages could last for weeks.

In Goldsboro, North Carolina, home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, roads that frequently flood were already closed Saturday by rushing water. Dozens of electric repair trucks massed to respond to damage expected to hit central North Carolina as rainwater collected into rivers headed to the coast.

Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington late Saturday, but there was no indication contamination had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River. The company initially estimated that about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash were displaced at the landfill, enough to fill about 180 dump trucks. Sheehan said that estimate could be revised.

Near the flooded-out town of New Bern , where about 455 people had to be rescued from the swirling flood waters, water completely surrounded churches, businesses and homes. In the neighboring town of Trenton, downtown streets were turned to creeks full of brown water.

The rain was unrelenting in Cheraw, a town of about 6,000 people in northeastern South Carolina. Streets flooded and Police Chief Keith Thomas warned people not to drive, but the local food and gas store had customers.

"As you can tell, they're not listening to me," he said.

Read Full Story