FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Hundreds of people were rescued by boat and helicopter as floodwaters inundated central and eastern N.C. towns on Monday in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Officials warn that life-threatening flooding from swollen rivers would continue for days. Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday. In the United States, the number of fatalities rose to at least 22, with nearly half in N.C. After receiving as much as 18 inches of rain from Matthew over the weekend, N.C.’s skies were clear on Monday, but there were major problems in Robeson and Cumberland counties from overwhelmed rivers and breaches. “This storm is not over in North Carolina,” Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Fayetteville on Monday afternoon after receiving a firsthand look at the damage at Lafayette Park and area washouts along Gillespie Street. He was briefed by Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson and emergency responders. “It’s going to be a long, tough journey,” he said.There have now been 11 confirmed storm-related fatalities, the most recent occurring in Gates County. With rivers rising, the governor said he expected deaths to increase. “North Carolina is resilient, our people are strong and we are going to get through this together,” said McCrory. “This storm is still impacting people in a big way. You have got to see it to believe all the devastation that has occurred.”Parts of I-95 near Fayetteville remain closed due to flooding. There have been more than 700 swift water rescues in Cumberland County alone. The state’s Helo-Aquatic Rescue Teams and N.C. National Guard troops are responding with high water rescue vehicles, and additional teams from neighboring states.Lumberton in Robeson County, also had sudden flooding on Monday morning, stranding some 2,000 residents in their homes and on rooftops. Air and water rescues will continue throughout the day there as well, with an eye on other area rivers throughout the week, especially in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers.The governor emphasized that this will be a prolonged event as rivers will be cresting throughout the coming week in areas including Lumberton, Kinston, Greenville and Rocky Mount in addition to Fayetteville.Other coastal and inland communities remained under water from coastal storm surge or overrun rivers and creeksEast Carolina University in Greenville canceled classes for the rest of the week due to “anticipated catastrophic flooding.” Emergency officials in North Carolina’s Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River. “It’s touch and go,” said Tammie Jones, an emergency services supervisor for the county.McCrory told reporters that he had met with an elderly woman at a shelter on Monday who had lost everything to floods.”She’s sitting in a school cafeteria at this point in time crying and wondering what her life is going to be all about,” he said. “It breaks your heart.”Currently, five shelters are open in Cumberland County housing nearly 200 occupants. The state has sent ice, bottled water, tents, cots and a mobile water treatment center to help in Cumberland County.McCrory thanked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, N.C.’s emergency management officials, and rescue workers who have all been working around the clock. He also thanked state officials for upholding his request to invest in the state’s rainy day fund during the last budget cycle. The current fund is up to an all-time-high of $1.6 billion. That money is likely needed as the state recovers. Early estimates are putting the total east coast costs from Matthew close to $30 billion. In neighboring S.C., the scene looks much the same. Governor Nikki Haley warned that waterways were quickly reaching capacity around the state. “What might not be flooded today could be flooded tomorrow,” Haley said at a news conference.She said there had been at least three storm-related deaths, including one in which a person in a vehicle in Florence County was swept away by floodwaters.Jake Williams of Florence, S.C., said on Monday that his power had been out since Saturday morning. And, he said, “Trees are down in every neighborhood on almost every road.”In Virginia Beach, which saw more than 13 inches of rain, 55,000 people were without power on Sunday night.While power was being restored in some areas, about 1.1 million people were without power in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia, down from Sunday’s peak of 2.2 million.
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