Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a news conference Tuesday that 26 people have now died in North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence — and with rivers still rising, that number could go up.
“We continue to feel the effects of this massive storm,” Cooper said. “Sunshine doesn’t always mean safety. Rivers will continue to rise and will see more flooding.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 16 rivers at major flood stage and three of those have not yet crested, according to Cooper.
There were 24 reported deaths on Monday and the governor announced two more Tuesday. The details on those deaths have not been released.
Flooding will continue to be an issue and is already responsible for many road closures across the state.
“There are more than 1,100 road closures still. While road conditions are starting to improve, rising creeks and rivers are making travel unsafe,” Cooper said. “First responders have reported over 4,000 rescues.”
There are around 10,000 people currently in shelters and those people are being asked to remain there for the sake of their safety and the effectiveness of emergency operations.
Cooper also spoke specifically about some of the damage seen in the state.
“The damage in New Bern is devastating,” he said. “As distressing as this damage is, it is nice to see people of North Carolina stepping up to help their neighbors.”
It’s not just neighbors stepping up — the state’s Emergency Management division is still at a level one activation on day nine of the state’s Florence response.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the organization continues “to be engaged in large-scale search and rescue operations.”
Approximately 3,000 resource requests have been received since the state’s response officially began and four mass-feeding kitchens are currently open across the state, with more expected to be established, according to Sprayberry.
North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon spoke of the road closure situation in the state, saying that there are 255 primary roads that are currently closed because of flooding. Two major interstates, I-95 and I-40, are closed in 19 separate locations.
“Twelve additional crews have been pushed into southern counties that are focused on debris removal. Certain ports will be open tomorrow for ferries to deliver needed supplies,” he said.
Trogdon did warn residents that it’s still unsafe to return to some southeastern counties.
“Please do not return to New Hanover, Brunswick or Pender counties. Travel conditions are not safe. Leave roads open for emergency response vehicles,” he said.
Highlighting the danger on the roads, North Carolina State Highway Patrol Col. Glenn McNeill said that troopers have responded to more than 120 crashes in the last 24 hours.
“Travel in affected areas is still extremely dangerous. Over the last 24 hours, troopers have responded to 126 collisions,” he said. “If you are trapped in flooded water inside your vehicle, open a window to exit or open the door if the electrical system is offline.”
McNeill also said it’s important to not spread rumors saying that closed roadways have been reopened.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen asked for help from any nurses that can offer assistance.
“Nurses who can volunteer, please step forward. Register with the Red Cross or register with the state if you have a team that is able to serve,” she said.
FEMA officials at the news conference said they would do everything possible to help the state recover.
“It is going to take some time for water to recede. As waters do recede, FEMA will be working to fix the transportation system and help crews get power back on,” they said.
Those in need of disaster assistance can register at www.disasterassistance.gov and download the FEMA app for help with registering. Case managers will also visit communities to help people register.
Sprayberry provided some welcome news on the state’s dams.
“Dams appear to be holding and we are working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to do flyovers over dams to assess any risks,” he said.
He also mentioned that NCEM and NCDEQ are watching waste water treatment plants and have so far not seen any waste systems totally fail.
Cooper ended the news conference by highlighting the help the business community has provided in the storm’s aftermath.
“Our business community as a whole has pulled together to help out…Every once in a while, you will get someone who violates price gouging laws. The attorney general is investigating claims, especially concerning gas stations,” he said.
The governor said the state’s goal is to “pull in as many federal resources as we can during the rebuild. We want to do it right.”