Florence arrived early Friday as a Category 1 storm. Authorities said Monday the death toll climbed to 18. Most died in North Carolina from falling trees and other debris, and two in South Carolina died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The storm had weakened to a tropical depression, but still inundating the region with rain on Monday.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said 16 inches of rain fell over 12 hours on Sunday. Authorities have closed Interstate 40, a north-south highway through the city, along with 170 other roads.
“There is no access to Wilmington,” Woody White, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said.
River levels have risen statewide, with many nearing record flood levels, the Wilmington Star reported.
“Significant river flooding is still ongoing across parts of central and eastern North Carolina,” the NWS said in a Monday morning advisory, adding that flash flooding and landslides could occur as more rain falls.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged Wilmington residents, most of whom evacuated the city of 120,000, to in stay in place until water levels recede.
“The threat of flooded roads keeps spreading,” Cooper said. “We’re working very hard to find routes to places that need help, and we don’t need people out on the highway blocking those routes.”
Officials are concerned about the integrity of dams in South Carolina. One in Cheraw State Park has breached its top and sides, Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks said. Several towns lie below the dam, which holds back a 350-acre lake.
Curfews are in place in most North Carolina and South Carolina communities. President Donald Trump has approved South Carolina’s disaster declaration, the White House said Monday, and ordered federal involvement in recovery efforts.
As many as 2 feet of rain fell on parts of North Carolina and eastern South Carolina. Residents living along creeks that feed into South Carolina’s Great Pee Dee River were evacuated.
Forecasters said the heavy rain is expected to dissipate by Tuesday and the remnants of Florence would move to the Northeast and coastal New England.