US & Canada

Storm Florence: Disaster declared in North Carolina

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Media captionGusts & floods: the impact of the storm

US President Donald Trump has declared a disaster in North Carolina where a storm has killed 11 people amid warnings the worst is far from over.

Florence's top sustained winds have weakened to 45mph (72km/h) but it is projected to bring further catastrophic flash flooding.

Some towns have already had over 2ft (60cm) of rain, and forecasters warn that totals could hit 3.5ft (1m).

Nearly a million householders have no electricity in the Carolinas.

On the other side of the world, meanwhile, at least 14 people died as Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the Philippines.

President Trump's disaster declaration for eight North Carolina counties frees up federal funding including grants for property repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured losses.

About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

The president may travel to the region next week, the White House has said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cajun Navy volunteers rescued people from a flooded trailer community in Lumberton, North Carolina

What do we know of the victims?

Eleven people have died as a result of Florence, the Associated Press reports, quoting officials.

Among the fatalities in North Carolina:

  • A mother and her child were killed in Wilmington when a tree fell on their home on Friday. The infant's father was taken to hospital for injuries
  • A 78-year-old man was electrocuted in Lenoir County while attempting to connect extension cords
  • A 77-year-old man in the same county died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs
  • A woman died from cardiac arrest in the town of Hampstead after emergency responders had their route to her blocked by downed trees

In South Carolina, a 62-year-old woman died when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a road in the town of Union.

How bad is the damage?

Nearly 950,000 customers have no electricity in the Carolinas, the News & Observer reports.

More than 22,600 people in North Carolina have been housed in 150 shelters such as churches, schools and a basketball arena.

The riverside town of New Bern (population 30,000) suffered massive flooding.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Aerial photos show the extent of the flooding in New Bern

"If you are not watching the waters they do rise very quickly, giving you very little time to get out," public information officer Colleen Roberts told BBC World News.

She said over 4,000 homes had been "destroyed or completely damaged", based on calls they had received for emergency services.

"That's preliminary at this point. And we have 300 businesses that are damaged or destroyed. We had a very popular lifestyle and winter wear company that people loved and the roof collapsed under the weight of rainwater," she said.

"New Bern is a quaint historic down town, about ten square blocks, and it was significantly under water during this storm in ways that most people have never seen since they've been here."

Where is the storm heading?

The centre of the storm moved slowly westward on Saturday across the Carolinas, bringing further heavy rain and flooding. the US National Hurricane Center says.

It is expected to weaken gradually as it moves inland, heading northwards through the Ohio valley by Monday.

Image copyright JoJo Turbeville
Image caption Aircraft including helicopters, an aeroplane and a microlight were damaged by high winds at Marion County Airport in Florida

The Federal Emergency Management Authority has said motorists should not attempt to drive through floodwaters.

"Just turn around and don't drown," officials said.

Florence made landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday morning as a category one hurricane.

It was downgraded to a tropical storm later in the day.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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