WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water and other essentials Tuesday in Wilmington, still mostly cut off by high water days after Hurricane Florence unleashed epic floods, and North Carolina’s governor pleaded with more than 10,000 evacuees around the state not to return home yet.
The death toll rose to at least 35 in three states, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina, as Florence’s remnants went in two directions: Water flowed downstream toward the Carolina coast, and storms moved through the Northeast, where flash floods hit New Hampshire and New York state .
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that the flooding set off by as much as 3 feet of rain from Florence is far from over and will get worse in places.
“I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won’t end,” he said.
Addressing roughly 10,000 people who remain in shelters and “countless more” staying elsewhere, Cooper urged residents to stay put for now, particularly those from the hardest-hit coastal counties that include Wilmington, near where Florence blew ashore on Friday.
Roads remain treacherous, he said, and some are still being closed for the first time as rivers swelled by torrential rains inland drain toward the Atlantic.
“I know it was hard to leave home, and it is even harder to wait and wonder whether you even have a home to go back to,” Cooper said.
In Wilmington, population 120,000, workers began handing out supplies using a system that resembled a giant fast-food drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to a line of pallets, placed an order and left without having to get out. A woman blew a whistle each time drivers were supposed to pull forward.
Todd Tremain needed tarps to cover up spots where Florence’s winds ripped shingles off his roof. “The roof is leaking, messing up the inside of the house,” he said.
Others got a case of bottled water or military MREs, or field rations. An olive-drab military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.
Brandon Echavarrieta struggled to stay composed as he described life post-Florence: no power for days, rotted meat in the freezer, no water or food and just one bath in a week.
“It’s been pretty bad,” said Echavarrieta, 34, his voice breaking.
Nearby, about 200 people lined up to buy 40-pound bags of ice as quickly as a Rose Ice and Coal Co. could produce it.
Supplies have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters, which also have been used to pluck hundreds of desperate people from atop homes and other structures.
Members of the Civil Air Patrol load cars with MREs, (Meals Ready To Eat) water and tarps at distribution area in Wilmington, N.C. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Kenny Babb retrieves a paddle that floated away on his flooded property as the Little River continues to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Linden, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People wait for a distribution area to open and hand out MREs, water and tarps in Wilmington, N.C. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)