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Food,Water Handouts Set for Wilmington 09/18 06:18

   WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- With one of North Carolina's largest cities still 
mostly cut off by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence, officials prepared to 
begin distributing food, water and tarps to Wilmington residents as yet more 
people were rescued from submerged inland neighborhoods.

   Workers will begin handing out supplies to stranded residents in the city of 
120,000 people beginning Tuesday morning, county officials say.

   One road was opened into Wilmington at least briefly, officials said, and 
items have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters, 
which also have been used to pluck hundreds of harried people from atop homes 
and other structures.

   "Thank you," a shirtless Willie Schubert mouthed to members of a Coast Guard 
helicopter crew who picked up him and his dog Lucky from atop a house encircled 
by water in Pollocksville on Monday. It wasn't clear how long he had been 
stranded.

   The death toll from Florence rose to at least 32 in three states, with 25 
fatalities in North Carolina, as remnants of the once-powerful Category 4 
hurricane --- now reduced to a rainy, windy mass of low pressure --- speeded up 
toward the heavily populated Northeast.

   The victims include a 1-year-old boy who was swept away after his mother 
drove into floodwaters and lost her grip on him while trying to get back to dry 
land in North Carolina. Authorities in Virginia said one person was dead after 
an apparent tornado.

   The rain finally stopped and the sun peeked through, but North Carolina Gov. 
Roy Cooper warned that dangerously high water would persist for days. He urged 
residents who were evacuated from the hardest-hit areas to stay away because of 
closed roads and catastrophic flooding that submerged entire communities.

   "There's too much going on," he told a news conference.

   Crews have conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where 
Wilmington is located. More than 60 percent of homes and businesses were 
without power, authorities said. Roads are being cleared and the landfill is 
open to accept storm refuse.

   Mayor Bill Saffo said he was working with the governor's office to get more 
fuel into Wilmington.

   "At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city," he said.

   Compounding problems, downed power lines and broken trees crisscrossed many 
roads in Wilmington three days after Florence made landfall. The smell of 
broken pine trees wafted through damaged neighborhoods.

   At the White House, President Donald Trump said almost 20,000 military 
personnel and federal workers were deployed to help with the aftermath.

   "We will do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe," Trump said.

   Preliminary statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration showed Florence had the fourth-highest rainfall total of any 
hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1950, with 35.94 inches (91.2 
centimeters) at Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Harvey's total of 60.58 inches 
(153.87 centimeters) last year in Texas is No. 1.

   Desperate for gas to run a generator at home, Nick Monroe waited in a 
half-mile-long (more than .8-kilometer) line at a Speedway station even though 
the pumps were wrapped in plastic. His power went off Thursday before Florence 
hit the coast, but he couldn't recall exactly when.

   "It's all kind of a blur," Monroe said.

   At another gas station, a long line of vehicles followed a tanker truck that 
pulled in with 8,800 gallons (33,000 liters) of fuel.

   Downgraded from a tropical depression, the deadly storm still had abundant 
rain and top winds around 25 mph (40 kph). Forecasters said it was expected to 
continue toward the Northeast, which is in for as much as 4 inches (10 
centimeters) of rain, before the system moves offshore again.

   Emergency officials had difficulty keeping up with the scope of the 
spreading disaster.

   In Lumberton, where the Lumber River inundated homes, Fire Chief John Paul 
Ivey couldn't even count how many calls authorities had received about people 
needing to be rescued.

   "We've been going so hard and fast we don't have a number yet," he said.


(KA)

 
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