The Latest: Sheriff: Van where 2 women died recovered

BLADENBORO, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on the remnants of Hurricane Florence (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

Authorities have recovered a van they say was swept away last week in South Carolina floodwaters, killing two mental patients being transported in the back.

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson says in a news release that the van was recovered Monday from a river in Marion County.

Thompson has opened an internal investigation into the incident, which happened while two of his deputies were transporting two female mental patients as floodwaters in northeastern South Carolina rose after Hurricane Florence.

The deputies have been placed on leave, and state police and the Highway Patrol are investigating.

It took more than 24 hours to recover the women’s bodies from the sunken van.

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Officials say water levels in parts of South Carolina will continue to rise for several days after torrential rains from Hurricane Florence.

State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall told reporters during a news conference Monday in Georgetown that the Waccamaw River in the Conway area is still rising at the rate of about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) per hour.

Transportation officials have constructed barriers along some roads in the Conway area to try to prevent water from washing over roads. That includes Highway 501, a main artery from that area to the tourism center of Myrtle Beach.

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4 p.m.

The two interstates in southeastern North Carolina closed by Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters have reopened in a period spanning less than 24 hours.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday that Interstate 40 is now clear all the way to Wilmington. Interstate 95 reopened late Sunday.

The state Department of Transportation had warned last week that it could be this coming weekend or longer before both major interstates would be clear again. But DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon says the waters receded much more quickly than they anticipated and road damage was either not as grave or repaired quickly.

Trogdon says 400 roads statewide are still closed and nearly 1,900 road sites will require work in the coming weeks and months.

Cooper says power outages have fallen from a peak of 800,000 customers to 5,000. There are still 2,200 people in shelters, and the state has contacted over 4,700 displaced residents to see if they need hotel rooms for the near future.

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3:30 p.m.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence are topping roads and bridges and entering buildings in South Carolina.

Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway said Monday afternoon that the flooding is going to get worse until early Thursday morning.

State officials have created a detailed map with flooding forecasts that has allowed an unprecedented amount of preparation.

Hemingway says current predictions would top all main roads into Georgetown except U.S. Highway 521 for at least several hours if not more than a day.

The county has recommended about 8,000 people who are going to be flooded leave their homes. Hemingway says most of them only have to move a mile (1.6 kilometers) or less to safety.

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3:15 p.m.

North Carolina’s governor says all of Interstate 40 has been reopened to traffic after floodwaters from Florence closed it.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that floodwaters receded more quickly than originally anticipated

The Department of Transportation had said late last week that I-40 probably wouldn’t reopen until this coming weekend.

Stretches of Interstates 95 and 40 were underwater in the wake of the storm.

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2 p.m.

North Carolina legislators say they’re working on a disaster relief bill that will address extended public school closures and teacher pay issues resulting from Hurricane Florence.

Republican state education leaders announced Monday in Wilmington that they’re planning legislation designed to ensure teachers at still-shuttered schools that they will get paid without using vacation time.

Sen. Michael Lee of Wilmington, Rep. Craig Horn of Weddington and state Superintendent Mark Johnson also discussed adjusting the school calendar law to address lost classroom time because of closures.

Horn says changes would apply to schools both in the worst damaged areas and those that didn’t take direct hits.

The proposal would be part of broader disaster funding legislation the General Assembly will consider in an anticipated special session.

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A hydrologist says most areas of the Carolinas have seen the worst of the flooding but people need to remain cautious.

National Weather Service hydrologist Todd Hamill says most of the rivers have crested and that water is moving toward the coast.

Hammill says numerous river crests set records across the Carolinas and though some spots are still in record flood stage, most are at the lower, major flooding stage. People there “still need to be cautious.”

He says one exception to that improving picture is the Conway river basin in South Carolina, where the Pee Dee and the Waccamaw rivers are still a day or so from cresting. Officials are working to get information to people there to make sure they take precautions.

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11:30 a.m.

Residents in a coastal South Carolina county are being urged to evacuate ahead of river flooding as all that water dumped by Hurricane Florence works its way out to sea.

Georgetown County emergency officials said Monday morning that the county is now on its highest state of alert because of the dangers of flooding along the Waccamaw River, the Pee Dee River and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The county warns that even people who do not live in flood zones should get out if they can, because road conditions could leave them isolated.

Shelters opened early Monday at Georgetown High School in Georgetown and Waccamaw Middle School at Pawleys Island.

The Waccamaw River was at 20.75 (6 meters) feet at Conway at 10 a.m. Monday. That’s already more than 3 feet (1 meter) above the previous record. It’s expected to peak at 22 feet (6.7 meters) at Conway on Wednesday. Conway is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) northeast from Georgetown.

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7 a.m.

Hurricane Florence is by no means done with the Carolinas, where some rivers are still rising and thousands of people were told to plan to leave their homes on Monday before rivers reach their crest.

About 6,000 to 8,000 people in Georgetown County, South Carolina, were alerted to be prepared to evacuate potential flood zones ahead of a “record event” of up to 10 feet (3 meters) of flooding, which is expected to begin Tuesday near parts of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers, county spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.

The county’s emergency management director, Sam Hodge, said in a video message posted online that authorities are closely watching river gauges, and law enforcement would be going door to door in any threatened areas.

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For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes

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