32 Deaths Now Attributed to Florence
Authorities say the number of deaths tied to Florence has risen to at least 32, the bulk of them in North Carolina.
Officials say the latest deaths include a person who died in an apparent tornado near Richmond, Virginia, as remnants from the once-powerful hurricane swept northward from the Carolinas.
North Carolina authorities released a full list of deaths on Monday afternoon, bringing the death toll for the state up to 25.
Gov. Roy Cooper says the city of New Bern is a strong and resilient community and will make it through the devastating flooding that damaged riverfront buildings and mangled homes and sailboats.
Cooper and House Speaker Tim Moore traveled Monday to the city of 30,000 people about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Raleigh to view the damage caused by Hurricane Florence. Torrential rains and storm surge going up the Neuse River left water marks on homes and businesses measured in feet, making North Carolina’s Colonial-era capital one of the hardest-hit communities when the storm first reach landfall.
New Bern Fire Chief Robert Boyd said 4,300 homes were inundated by floodwaters. That’s about one-third of all the city’s homes.
The governor and speaker also worked a line briefly in the Temple Baptist Church parking lot to hand out dinners, water and ice to grateful motorists who drove in for help.
North Carolina government officials announced they had cleared a driving route to get needed supplies and first responders into Wilmington, where major roads from the north and west have been blocked by rising flood waters.
But they weren’t sharing that path publicly Monday, in part because they didn’t want the road unnecessarily clogged with residents aiming to return to check how their homes fared in Hurricane Florence.
Transportation Department spokesman Steve Abbott said in a statement the route wasn’t being disclosed because it’s still risky. He said state troopers were providing escorts because the road’s condition is tenuous and could become dangerous again. Abbott also says “no safe, stable and reliable route currently exists for the public” to travel to and from Wilmington.
DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon said the unidentified route opened up once workers removed debris and downed utility lines and flood waters receded.
More North Carolina counties have qualified for federal disaster aid for their homeowners, renters and businesses reeling from Hurricane Florence damage.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced late Monday that 10 additional counties have been designated for individual assistance, bringing the total to 18 counties damaged by the storm overall as qualifying for such assistance.
Residents and businesses that have damage should file insurance claims first before applying for government assistance. The aid could include grants or low-interest loans.
The new counties designated Monday are Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Lenoir, Jones, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne counties.
Designating the 18 counties also means the federal government can reimburse state and local governments for debris removal and other emergency actions.