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Hurricane Florence: Hundreds in New Bern need rescue from 'catastrophic' storm surge  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

SWAN QUARTER, N.C. – More than 100 people needed to be rescued from roofs and attics by boat Friday in New Bern as floodwaters rose where the Neuse and Trent rivers meet, according to the city’s mayor.

Floodwaters rolled along New Bern's downtown streets Friday afternoon. Combined with 70-mph wind gusts, the water was strong enough to move the city's "Swiss Bear" statues that nod to the city's Swiss roots. One of those bears, typically bolted in front of a downtown business, floated on South Front Street, prompting the city to tweet: "Some of our beloved bears have wandered off."

The situation, though, was "very serious," Mayor Dana Outlaw said.

"People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this," Outlaw said.

At least 4,200 homes and 300 businesses in New Bern have sustained damage from flooding or fallen trees and limbs, Outlaw said. Only 300 of the city's 22,000 residents had power as of Friday afternoon, he added.

The city where Pepsi was invented in a drugstore was still experiencing winds in the 70-mph range on Friday afternoon.

"We aren't going to try to restore power for quite some time, probably," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, wind gusts of 105 mph were reported along some parts of the Outer Banks late Thursday night and before dawn as the storm's fury reached land. Ocracoke Island's wind gusts were typically in the range of 70 mph, according to Tom Pahl, a Hyde County commissioner who stayed on the island for the storm.

Paul said parts of the island still have power. The earliest that crews are expected to begin surveying damage to power lines is Saturday morning.

North Carolina Highway 12, which runs from Ocracoke to Hatteras islands, remains flooded in several areas.

Dorothy Hester, a spokeswoman based at Dare County's emergency operations center, said that other parts of the county, including Nags Head and Manteo, are largely unscathed.

Donnie Shumate, a spokesman for Hyde County, said officials here expect Hurricane Florence, now a tropical storm, to stall over the region until Saturday morning, and its full effects for this area may not be known for several hours.

"We're definitely not out of the woods," Shumate said. "We're especially keeping an eye on Silver Lake on Ocracoke, because it is looking high already and we still have three or four high tides to go through while Florence is still with us."

No businesses on the island are open, Pahl said.

Howard's Pub, known for staying open nearly every day of the year – including during hurricanes – closed Thursday before the storm reached its worst, Pahl said. Ocracoke Variety Store, which offers groceries and general merchandise, closed at noon Thursday.

Back on Hyde County's mainland, some of the worst flooding in the area has been reported between Rose Bay and Scranton. North Carolina Highway 264 is flooded from Rose Bay's single flashing caution light to points west, Shumate said.

Assessment crews have been unable to access the westernmost points of the county by vehicle because of several inches of water rippling along Highway 264.

No injuries have been reported on the island or mainland Hyde County, but one stranded driver was rescued from Highway 45.

In Swan Quarter, some residents believe they have been spared more significant flooding from Hurricane Florence because of a 6-foot earthen dike around the town. The last section of the dike was completed in 2010, seven years after Hurricane Isabel flooded nearly every house in the town that's home to ferries to Ocracoke.

Jessica Bianco walked her 6-month-old yellow Labrador, Calypso, on a flooded road near the Swan Quarter Community Park on Friday morning, splashing in the overwash from Swan Quarter Bay that made the road nearly invisible.

"She's been in a crate all night, and we both needed to get out of the house," Bianco said. "Once you are without power, it doesn't take long to start going stir-crazy."





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