Florence pours on the rain in the Carolinas; death toll at 5

Despite its weakening Sunday from a tropical storm, its relentless rain drenched already saturated areas as authorities warned the danger is far from over.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches (60 centimeters) on the state. On the coast of the river break their banks and torrents of water flooded farms and farmland, our homes and cities.

Florence came ashore in the Carolinas Friday and its storm surges, flash floods and winds scattered destruction widely. But its slow march over the two states, crawling west at only 3 miles per hour (6 km per hour), is expected to leave large parts of the region deluged in the coming days, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said late Saturday.

A day after blowing ashore with 90 miles per hour (145 kph) winds, Florence practically parked itself over land all day long and poured on the rain.

Rivers and creeks rose toward historic levels, threatening flash flooding that could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges. Another person was arrested for allegedly looting an Exxon gas station and convenience store.

Florence set a record in the state for rain from a hurricane, surpassing the previous record of 24 inches (61 cm) set by Hurricane Floyd, which killed 56 people in 1999, said Bryce Link, a meteorologist with private forecasting service DTN Marine Weather.

A mother and infant were killed in Wilmington, NC, when a tree fell on their house, WECT reported. A state of emergency has been already declared in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.

The other victim, another 78-year-old man, was found dead at his home.

U.S. media later said a man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.

With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the US Coast Guard.

In South Carolina's Union County, a 61-year-old woman was killed when the auto she was driving struck a downed tree, state emergency management spokesman Antonio Diggs said.

Of the 13 victims, nine died on Friday night, while the rest were killed on Saturday, according to the officials.

President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina, the White House said Saturday.

In one piece of good news, authorities said 16 wild ponies of hurricane-struck Ocracoke Island, located off the North Carolina coast, were safe. Rivers will continue to rise days after the rain has stopped, he said. It went up 5 feet overnight and was at 17.6 feet, more than 4 feet above flood stage, by Saturday night. During Matthew, it reached 58 feet.

Corey Walters, the city's deputy director of public works, said this was a worst-case storm scenario.

"The main thing right now is to get this water pumped down" from the city, he said. "There have been hundreds of rescues".

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas, while Wilmington set a curfew on Saturday evening in response to looting in one area.

Authorities have ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles in from the coast.

Still, spirits were high at the Trent Park Elementary School in New Bern, where 44-year-old Cathy Yolanda Wright took shelter after being rescued from her flooded home Saturday.

That should spell some relief for the inundated areas of Onslow County, but unfortunately puts the city of Wilmington, southeast coastal communities of North Carolina and northeast areas of SC in the line of fire instead.

North Carolina and SC each had modest gains in flood insurance policies, but coverage gaps remain.

Vanessa Coleman

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