“We're not through this storm”: Florence rescues by boat and by air

WILMINGTON, North Carolina — The rain will not let up on North Carolina’s coast for another 24 hours — and the preliminary rainfall totals so far are staggering.

The National Weather Service says more than 30 inches of rain were measured in Swansboro, North Carolina — shattering the state’s tropical cyclone rainfall record of more than 24 inches — set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Officials warn some rivers are approaching historic flood levels, and the worst devastation may be still to come.

The death toll from Florence climbed Saturday to at least 12. Some have been killed by fallen trees — others have died on flooded roads.

Nearly one million homes and businesses in the Carolinas have lost power. On Saturday, the mayor of Wilmington said it could take weeks to restore electricity.

President Trump and Vice President Pence received updates on the storm at the white house today. The president plans to travel to North Carolina sometime soon.

Despite a mandatory evacuation, many Jacksonville residents stayed home, CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz reports. That means some saw flood waters rise around them. Crews that were supposed to be clearing streets of debris on Saturday were rerouted to help with rescues.

Volunteers brought boats, but air support had to be called in. Coast Guard helicopters flew through the rain to reach people on Saturday in homes too remote for rescue boats.

CBS News watched as Guardsmen were deployed to the ground. They said they have been pulling people from homes, from roofs. 

“Yeah, just people that flag us down or really need help,” said one Guardsman. 

Most evacuations were by boat. CBS News found this family looking for any neighbors who might need help.

They said the neighborhood flooded fast. “Man, it was pretty quick — I woke up, to it was halfway up the street and about two hours later we was worried about it coming into our house,” said the father. 

The National Guard, first responders, and volunteers rescued dozens of people who live in low-lying areas of Onslow County, where the worst flooding is chest-deep.

Cali Sterling lives in a dry part of the county, but rushed here to help. She said it’s “pretty deep, it’s scary, there’s cars already going under. There’s people freaking out.”

Some brought what they could in shopping bags, others cradled wet pets to safety.

“The water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don’t typically flood,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “Many people who think that the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat.”

That’s why Anthony Love’s family is leaving. They’ve been here for two decades, and this is their first time fleeing floodwater.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” Love said. “Luckily we don’t have any water in our house but it’s getting close.” 

“We’ve never seen this before — never, never, never, not like this,” said Philip Johnson. “So that’s something, you know, that’s going to be like for the history books.”

Coast guard helicopters were conducting rescues today in New Bern, an area swamped by yesterday’s storm surge. CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann flew along with them.

One by one, stranded Florence victims were hoisted 40 feet into the sky. In all, 13 people, adults and young children, who had gathered in a single flooded home in Jacksonville, North Carolina. An older woman waded through waist-deep water on two crutches, and with help, crawled into the chopper’s rescue basket. Like all of them, she was safe.

“We flew with the Coast Guard today as they responded to day two of flooding drama in eastern North Carolina over places like New Bern, recovering from 10 feet of storm surge,” said Pilot lieutenant Matt Delahunty.

Friday’s stormy weather was too dangerous for most rescue helicopters to fly, but on Saturday, with calmer conditions, Coast Guard air crews plucked dozens of people from flood zones.  

Safer flying weather came just in time. Heavy rains and flooding over the next few days could mean more people who end up needing help from a rescue helicopter.

Vice Admiral Scott Buschman flew with us over flooded neighborhoods.

“We’re not through this storm,” Buschman said. “There’s several more days of rain to come. So there may be people who are in distress so my advice to you is to listen to your local emergnecy managers and stay put until it’s safe to go outside.”

At one shelter, an evacuee had a heart attack. The shelter was surrounded by water, impossible for ambulances to reach. One of these Coast Guard helicopters flew them to a hospital in Raleigh. 

One of the areas Mark flew over today was the riverfront city of New Bern.

Drone footage shows parts of New Bern that were submerged by a massive surge of water when Florence made landfall. Hundreds were suddenly stranded in their homes, CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports. 

James Karcher flagged down the National Guard as we drove through his still flooded New Bern neighborhood. 

He’d come home to see what he could save. He’s leaving with a duffle bag. He found his house was flooded “totally from the first floor to the third floor.”

More than 400 people have been  rescued since Florence inundated the city of 30,000 with 10 feet of storm surge and unrelenting rain. 

An NYPD team carried this man who was on crutches. Entire neighborhoods were turned into islands. The mayor says more that 4,200 homes and 300 business have been damaged or destroyed.

The water rescues have ended but the National Guard is now going into still flooded areas to make sure everyone is ok.

As the water receded Saturday, neighbors started returning home but some found little to salvage. 
Despite the massive damage and daugnting cleanup, Mayor Dana Outlaw is grateful.
“You are talking about a storm knocking you down but not knocking you out? Not at all not this little community,” Outlaw said. He choked up as he admitted it’s been a touch couple of days. 
“I am really thinking and glad that nobody really got seriously hurt,” Outlaw said.

While much of the water has receded, there are pockets of New Bern that are still dealing with a lot of water and the rain just keeps coming. 

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