The Latest: Rescues over in 1 city, damage ‘heart-wrenching’

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Storm Florence (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

Officials say high-water rescues have been completed in New Bern, a North Carolina city swamped by flooding from Florence.

The city said in a statement Saturday that 455 people in all were rescued from Florence’s floodwaters. Waters began rising there late Thursday as Florence approached as a hurricane.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts says there were no significant injuries reported during the rescues, and there have been no fatalities in the city. She says a round-the-clock curfew is in effect until Monday morning, meaning residents shouldn’t be out on the streets.

Roberts said around 1,200 people were in local shelters Saturday.

She says thousands of buildings are damaged and calls the destruction “heart-wrenching.”


5 p.m.

All coastal storm surge warnings have been discontinued as Tropical Florence slowly plods inland.

The National Hurricane Center says water levels along the Carolinas coastline were gradually receding Saturday afternoon, though some minor coastal flooding was possible through Sunday.

Florence’s heavy rainfall is forecast to continue, potentially causing catastrophic inland flooding. The hurricane center says some areas along North Carolina’s coast could see up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) of total rain by the time Florence passes through early next week.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Florence was barely crawling west at 2 mph (3.2 kph), with its center located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Florence’s top sustained winds were holding at 45 mph (75 kph).

Forecasters say Florence could weaken to a tropical depression late Saturday.


4:30 p.m.

A U.S. Department of Transportation official says additional closures that could last up to a week are expected along a major interstate in North Carolina as flooding worsens.

Jim Ray said on a conference call Saturday with other federal officials that within the next 24 hours, the Cape Fear River is expected to overtake Interstate 95 near Fayetteville. Ray also says the Lumber River is expected to overtake I-95 in Robeson County near the South Carolina state line. Ray says that will prompt closures that could last up to a week.

A 16-mile (25-kilometer) stretch of I-95 between its intersection with I-40 — near the town of Dunn — was already closed Saturday. Law enforcement has set up a detour.

Ray says that closure due to a flash flood was expected to last for about a day.


4:15 p.m.

A herd of wild horses that roams a northern portion of North Carolina’s Outer Banks has survived Florence just fine.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a group devoted to protecting and managing the herd of wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs, posted a message on its Facebook page saying the horses were “doing their normal thing — grazing, socializing, and wondering what us crazy humans are all worked up over.”

Forecasts earlier in the week that showed Florence potentially making a more direct hit on the northern Outer Banks had many people worried about how the horses would fare. But wildlife experts had said there was no need to worry.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore tweeted Saturday that all of the ponies in another herd on Ocracoke Island were safe.

The Cape Lookout National Seashore said in a Facebook post that it would provide an update on a herd of horses at another location — Shackleford Banks — just as soon as staff could return to do condition assessments.


4:10 p.m.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued in North Carolina’s Cumberland County and the towns of Linden and Wade for anyone living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of the banks of the Cape Fear and Little rivers.

Josh Kicklighter, a 23-year-old truck driver from Nicholas County, West Virginia, who moved to Wade two years ago, sat on his porch with his family Saturday and spoke of how the storm had knocked out his power.

Regarding the evacuation order, Kicklighter says the family would “probably stay” because “I think we’re pretty much out of the way of” the mile radius.


3:50 p.m.

The Internal Revenue Service says victims of Hurricane Florence will get a grace period before having to file some tax returns and payments.

The IRS said Saturday it’s offering the relief in parts of North Carolina and other regions designated a disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Upcoming September deadlines for certain individual and business tax filings and payments will be postponed until Jan. 31 next year.

That includes quarterly estimated income tax payments that would have been due next week, and quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due Sept. 30.

The IRS says it will automatically provide relief for people with addresses in the counties designated a disaster area.

Taxpayers who qualify for relief but live outside the disaster area can call the IRS at 866-562-5227.


3 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is reopening the state’s government next week, but state officials are warning that the danger of significant flooding will persist.

State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall told reporters on Saturday that her agency is closely monitoring four bridges in the state’s northeastern section that are in danger of being washed over. Hall says those bridges are in areas that experienced significant flooding after 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

McMaster has lifted evacuation orders along much of South Carolina’s coast. Horry and Georgetown counties in the state’s northeastern portion are still under mandatory evacuation. McMaster says state offices that have been closed during the storm will re-open Monday.

Asked if he had spoken with President Donald Trump —a politically ally whom McMaster backed very early in the 2016 campaign— the governor says the president reassured him South Carolina would get federal assistance to dig out.

“He has said they would do whatever it takes to see that everything is available for South Carolina,” McMaster said.


3:40 p.m.

Many residents who evacuated North Carolina’s Outer Banks ahead of Hurricane Florence are making their way back onto the barrier islands, which were spared from the worst of the storm’s wrath.

The residents as well as workers and property owners were being allowed onto the northern portion of the islands beginning Saturday morning. Visitors were expected to be allowed entry to the same area beginning Sunday.

County officials and business owners reported relatively minimal damage, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

While the Outer Banks survived Florence fairly unscathed, scientists say they remain incredibly vulnerable to future storms, climate change, and sea-level rise.


3:30 p.m.

Authorities in North Carolina are reporting two more weather-related deaths.

The Duplin County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page on Saturday that two people died due to “flash flooding and swift water on roadways.”

The Associated Press was unable to get details because the sheriff’s office phone line was not working.

The deaths bring the death toll from Florence, which came ashore on Friday as a hurricane, to at least seven. All but one of those deaths occurred in North Carolina. One victim died in South Carolina.


2:50 p.m.

Hurricane Florence evacuees from the Carolinas are getting free tickets to watch the University of Florida’s football team play Colorado State.

The ticket office and athletic association at the University of Florida extended the invitation to evacuees for Saturday’s game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Gator officials say evacuees had to present a valid ID showing they’re from North Carolina or South Carolina.


2:05 p.m.

Though weakened, Florence remains a very large, slow and dangerous storm as it swirls over the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence’s top sustained winds were holding at 45 mph (75 kph), with higher gusts east of the storm’s center.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Florence was inching west at 3 mph (6 kph), with its center located about 50 miles (85 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Forecasters say prolonged rainfall from Florence could produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.

Tropical storm-force winds stretched up to 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the storm’s center.


1:15 p.m.

A mandatory evacuation order has been put in place for anyone who lives within a mile of the banks of North Carolina’s Cape Fear River and Little River.

Officials from Cumberland County, Fayetteville and the town of Wade issued the order early Saturday afternoon, saying residents there face “imminent danger” from flood waters expected to arrive in the area soon.

Residents are being asked to leave immediately. Officials said flood waters from other areas are accumulating north of the county and filling the river basins beyond their capacities. They asked that the evacuation begin immediately and that everyone within the evacuation areas get out by 3 p.m. Sunday.

Seven emergency shelters are open in the county.


1:50 p.m.

Officials in South Carolina are reporting the state’s first fatality due to Florence, bringing the storm’s overall death toll to at least five.

A 61-year-old woman was killed late Friday when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree that had fallen across Highway 18 near the town of Union.

Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said the woman, who was wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

The tree was about 6 feet above the road surface. Hughes said the vehicle’s roof is what struck the tree.

Four weather-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina.


12:35 p.m.

Portions of eastern North Carolina’s two interstates are closed because of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence’s torrential rains and may not re-open before Monday.

The state Department of Transportation says a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95 between its intersection with I-40 and near the town of Dunn is closed. Law enforcement has set up a detour.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said Saturday that authorities were still assembling an alternate route for a 5-mile section of I-40 that is closed in both directions near the town of Warsaw, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of Raleigh.

The state DOT said on its website that the two roads are expected to re-open by Monday morning.

Trogdon says road conditions are expected to get worse in the immediate future, pointing out the number of closed primary roads in eastern counties had doubled compared to Friday. He urged motorists not to travel east of I-95 or south of U.S. Highway 70.


11:45 a.m.

The Navy says almost 30 Virginia-based ships and 128 aircraft sent away from their bases in the Hampton Roads-area because of now-Tropical Storm Florence have been given the go-ahead to return.

The Navy says the aircraft will make their way back beginning Saturday, and the ships will start to return Sunday.

A Navy statement says the decision comes after inspections of the region’s port and airfield.


11 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence continues to weaken as it dumps dangerous amounts of rain across the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence’s top sustained winds have weakened to 45 mph (75 kph).

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), with its center located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The storm’s extremely slow speed means the risk of catastrophic flooding remains high across both states. Some areas are forecast to receive up to 15 inches more rain, and storm totals could reach over 3 feet in some areas for the week.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says areas like New Bern, North Carolina, could also see additional storm surge as high tide combines with the ocean waters still being pushed ashore by Florence’s outer bands.


8:25 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

Money also is available to the state, some local governments, and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties.


8 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to dump dangerous amounts of rain as it continues its slow slog across the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving west at 2 mph (3.2 kph), with its center located about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Maximum sustained winds remained at 50 mph (80 kph).

The region is being pounded with rain from the slow-moving storm, causing the risk of catastrophic flooding. Southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast

Parts of North and South Carolina can expect an additional 10 to 15 inches. Storm totals could reach between 30 and 40 inches in some areas.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the Miami-based hurricane center said rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.


5 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain expected before it finally swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.

The National Hurricane Center says top sustained winds have dropped to near 50 mph (80 kph) with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday.

At 5 a.m., the center was all but parked over South Carolina, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 5 mph (8 kph) and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.


1:30 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread including over 740,000 in North Carolina and 163,000 in South Carolina. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.

Early Saturday morning Florence’s winds weakened to 65 mph (100 kph) as it moved forward at 5 mph (7 kph) and was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


11 p.m.

A severe inland flood threat is emerging as remnants of Florence pound the Carolinas with nearly nonstop rain for a second day since the once major hurricane howled ashore.

At least four people have died since Hurricane Florence crashed into the coast Friday and nearly stalled. Though forecasters later downgraded Florence to a tropical storm, the monster system is barely moving over the Carolinas and could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread, and rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.


This story corrects the metric conversion in the first entry.

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