Flooding far from over in Carolinas: Communities to be submerged through September’s end

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
September 21, 2018, 2:07:29 AM EDT

Flooding from Florence is far from over and the worst may be yet to come for some unprotected communities along the major rivers in parts of the Carolinas.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday morning, Sept. 14, 2018. The tropical storm spent three days crawling through the Carolinas. The threat to lives and damage wrought by Florence is still unfolding and is an example of what a minimal hurricane can do.

While the worst of the rain may be over for the Carolinas, the slow-moving natural disaster known as river flooding will continue to unfold in the coming days.

Hundreds of roads are blocked including a stretch of Interstate 95 from Lumberton to Fayetteville, North Carolina, as of early this week.

Static I-95 Blocked AP

Flooded vehicles sit on a closed section of Interstate 95 in Lumberton, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, where the Lumber river overflowed due to Hurricane Florence. Navigation apps like Waze are trying to help motorists avoid hurricane flooding, but local authorities say people shouldn’t rely on them. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The high water is creating a nightmare for those venturing through the state or attempting to return to coastal communities where evacuation orders have been lifted. Department of Transportation officials have asked out-of-state drivers to avoid North Carolina for the time being.

As runoff from as much as 36 inches of rain works its way into the large rivers in central and eastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina, it will continue to rise during the next few days.

Any soil type, let alone the famous red clay found in the Carolinas, cannot handle 2-3 feet of rain in as many days.

Static Florence Rainfall 10 am

Both North and South Carolina set single-storm rainfall records during Florence. The old records were 17.45 inches in South Carolina during Beryl in 1994 and 24.06 inches in North Carolina during Floyd during 1999.

In comparison, the rainfall from Florence was double that of Agnes in 1972 in Pennsylvania and eclipsed that of which fell in Virginia during Camille in 1969.

Static AP Spring Lake, NC Flooding

Rescue personnel paddle through a flooded apartment complex to evacuate residents as flooding continued along the Little River in the wake of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The Rocky River in mid-state North Carolina reached major flood stage on Monday. The Little River at Manchester, North Carolina, as well as portions of the Cape Fear River were at record stage on Tuesday.

Some rivers in the midlands and coastal areas of the Carolinas, such as the Cape Fear, Neuse, Pee Dee, Lumber, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw may not crest until later this weekend or early next week and are likely to remain above flood stage through the end of September.

Static Carolina Rivers 10 am

That means that not only will water be in homes and businesses for seven to 14 days, but roads may be impassable for the same amount of time.

Many communities, such as Lumberton, along the Lumber River, were experiencing worse flooding from Florence than from Matthew in 2016.

However, for the mid-Atlantic region rivers, rainfall from Florence will be of much shorter duration and intensity when compared to that of the Carolinas or the situation could have been even more extensive.

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Farther north, in portions of Virginia, the Dan River crested at moderate flood stage at midweek.

Enough rain to trigger flash flooding occurred in parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England on Tuesday as Florence swept through the region.

Static AP Flood Photo

For people in the Carolinas, days and weeks of cleanup and damage assessment will follow the flood.

No big blasts of cool and dry air are foreseen through this weekend. As a result, the weather will remain very warm, humid and uncomfortable for recovery efforts.

Download the free AccuWeather app to find out what the weather will be like in the coming days.

Water may be unsafe to drink and sewage systems may not function properly. Power may not be restored for days. Poisonous snakes and other wild animals will be displaced.

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