‘We just don’t want people to think this is over’: Florence continues ravaging the Carolinas as the death toll climbs and rivers threaten to overflow

Hurricane Florence, now a tropical depression, is tearing through the Carolinas, bringing heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding.

The storm has already left at least a reported 14 people dead and knocked out power for more than a million residents. As of Sunday morning, Florence was moving west at 8 mph, with winds at a speed of 35 mph. Hurricane categories are based on wind speed, so Florence’s downgrade to a tropical depression doesn’t express how dangerous the storm could be.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned in a briefing Saturday morning that more people in the state are in danger now than when Florence made landfall there on Friday.

“The rainfall is epic and will continue to be,” Cooper said. “We just don’t want people to think this is over, because it’s not. It’s not anywhere.”

Cooper warned on Sunday: “I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life.”

According to Duke Energy, North Carolina’s main energy provider, 472,000 customers remain without power across the state as of Saturday night.

“Our crews during the past 24 hours have made significant progress restoring power in areas of the Carolinas where it is safe to do,” said Duke Energy incident commander Howard Fowler.

“However, we unfortunately have been unable to make repairs in some of the hardest-hit coastal areas due to continuing high winds and road access problems caused by major flooding,” he added.

The death toll rises

Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The storm has killed at least 14 people, according to The New York Times. Authorities expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.

A mother and baby died when a tree crashed into their home, the Wilmington Police Department said on Twitter Friday afternoon. A 78-year-old man was killed while trying to connect extension cords outside in the rain, ABC News reported, citing Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail.

Another man was blown away by strong winds while outside checking on his dogs. The man’s family found his body Friday morning, according to Dail.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh, North Carolina, also confirmed Saturday that an 81-year-old man in Wayne County fell and fatally struck his head while packing to evacuate the previous day, according to the Associated Press.

The office also said a husband and wife died in a house fire on Friday in Cumberland County.

President Donald Trump tweeted out condolences to the families of the dead on Saturday, mistakenly saying there were only five deaths after authorities had already raised the toll.

“Five deaths have been recorded thus far with regard to hurricane Florence! Deepest sympathies and warmth go out to the families and friends of the victims. May God be with them!” Trump tweeted.

Read more: Why Hurricane Florence could dump so much water on the Carolinas

The storm was also a factor in the death of a woman who suffered a heart attack since emergency crews couldn’t reach her due to a fallen tree, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

The water is the biggest threat

On Sunday, the center of the storm is hovering over central South Carolina, after making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday.

But the wind is not the main threat to people and property from the storm; it’s the storm surge and rainfall, which combined have caused serious flooding in the low-lying coastal regions of the Carolinas.

“The flood danger from storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall 24 hrs ago,” North Carolina Emergency Management said on Twitter. “We face walls of water. More ppl now face a threat than when the storm was offshore. Flood waters are rising, & if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking life.”

Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In total, Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain over North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maryland before the storm is over. That’s enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay or to cover the state of Texas in 4 inches.

And the deluge is not even close to over — parts of North Carolina are set to receive another 15 inches of rain in the coming days, according to The National Weather Service. That means the storm could easily drop 40 inches of rain in some spots.

Read more:How hurricanes like Florence form

As of Sunday morning, the storm had dumped over 30 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. Swansboro, a town near North Carolina’s coast, received 30.59 inches of rainfall, setting a record for tropical storm-associated rainfall in the state, meteorologist David Roth said.

After hundreds were trapped in New Bern, a town on the Neuse River that was hit hard by rain and flooding, 455 people were rescued on Saturday, NBC reported.

“Nobody expected this,” a rescued resident, Tom Ballance, told The Weather Channel. “We were fools.”

Flash flooding risk

Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged, significant river flooding will continue to be the greatest risk in the coming days, according to The National Hurricane Center.

In addition to flash flooding, The National Hurricane Center warned on Sunday that landslides are also possible in the mountainous areas across Western North Carolina and Virginia.

The map below shows where the greatest risk of flooding is:

Flash flooding risk.
The National Hurricane Center

Dana Varinsky contributed reporting.

This post will be updated.

Read more of Business Insider’s Hurricane Florence coverage:

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