Florence death toll reaches 23; destruction expected to worsen

Warnings of 'Catastrophic and Historic' Flooding as Experts Say Worst of Hurricane Florence Yet to Come

Emergency crews throw supply lifeline to isolated Wilmington, N.C.

At least 20 people are dead and 500,000 are without power as a result of Florence, the deadliest weather system to have hit the U.S. this year.

"Thank you", a frazzled, shirtless Willie Schubert mouthed to members of a Coast Guard helicopter crew who plucked him and his dog Lucky from atop a house encircled by water in Pollocksville.

A day earlier, Wilmington's entire population of 120,000 people was cut off by flooding. Reports of flooding extended to Duplin County, where the Northeast Cape Fear River covered roads. "It's a notice to people that roads are flooded", he said.

Gov. Roy Cooper: "Floodwaters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters".

In Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the worst affected areas, abandoned cars were left to float in the rising waters on Saturday as residents fled and tried to ride out the worst of the hurricane.

"This is an epic storm that is still continuing", Cooper told a news conference.

Rescue teams are out in force, pulling about a thousand people from their flooded homes, and shelters are overflowing with evacuees.

The storm's aftermath created flawless conditions for snakes, he said, "so I will be watching my feet closely until things reach equilibrium again".

Rainfall from 1-3 inches is expected, with more possible in localized areas.

"At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city", he said.

For many, the water is not the only hazard, but also the loss of power. Other fatalities were from drowning, trees falling, and downed power lines. The smell of cracked pine trees wafted through hard-hit neighborhoods.

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One group of good Samaritans traveled from Tennessee to help the storm-beleaguered city get back on its feet - small business owners who say they are just doing what God wants them to do.

The death toll from Florence, which came ashore in North Carolina on Friday, rose to 31 on Monday. Harvey's total of 60.58 inches (60.5 centimetres) a year ago in Texas is No. 1.

Hurricane Florence was a costly near-miss for southeastern Virginia, with preparations last week carrying a pricetag of up to $75 million for state agencies, according to Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey L. Layne.

"It's all kind of a blur", Monroe said.

It was downgraded further to a tropical depression on Sunday morning.

As this storm continues to churn through North Carolina, it has dumped almost two feet or more of rain in many places.

Others killed included three who perished "due to flash flooding and swift water on roadways", according to the Duplin County Sheriff's Office, and a 61-year-old woman who died when her auto hit a downed tree.

Flooding worries also increased in Virginia, where roads were closed and power outages were on the rise. About 500,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.

The perils stretched across North Carolina's more than 800-kilometres width.

Florence, once a fearsome Category 4 hurricane, was still massive.

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