Sep 15, 2018, 1:35 AM ET

'It's like a bomb has gone off here': Stranded residents hunker down as Florence hammers NC

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As Hurricane Florence hammers North Carolina's coastline with relentless rain and wind, first responders are scrambling to rescue residents who didn't heed evacuation orders and are now stranded in their homes, cars and even on rooftops amid rising floodwaters.

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About 300 residents in the coastal town of New Bern had been rescued by early Saturday morning and were taken to shelters after the dangerous Category 1 hurricane moved ashore early Friday, according to New Bern's government. Another 100 were still awaiting rescue overnight Friday into Saturday with "three rescue teams who are working around the clock to get into communities to retrieve people."

"It's very unsafe. I immediately spoke with the police chief and we decided we need a 24-hour curfew," Mayor Dana Outlaw said in an interview Friday on "Good Morning America."

"It's just a very, very dangerous situation right now for New Bern," he added.

PHOTO: Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street during Hurricane Florence Sept. 13, 2018 in New Bern, N.C.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street during Hurricane Florence Sept. 13, 2018 in New Bern, N.C.

New Bern resident George Zaytoun chose to weather the storm after it was downgraded from a Category 4. Zaytoun, who builds custom homes, said he wanted to stay behind so he could help his neighbors after Florence.

"I think we kind of let our guards down," Zaytoun told "GMA" in a telephone interview Friday morning. "In hindsight, yes, I would have probably gotten out of here."

Zaytoun's home is located on higher ground and he installed a generator and stocked up on supplies in preparation. But he's currently surrounded by floodwater.

"It's like a bomb has gone off here," he said. "Everything around us is underwater."

The floodwater outside rose to nearly 15 feet overnight and has since receded to about 6 to 8 feet, he said. But the torrential rain is far from over and the tides are still coming in.

"I think we're not out of the woods by a long shot," Zaytoun said.

PHOTO: Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018.Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018.

Another New Bern resident, Jay Schreiber, also decided to ride out the storm with his wife in their condo. They can see the nearby Trent River overflowing from the downpour, he said.

"Even if the storm were to stop right now, it would still take almost a week for all that water to drain out," Schreiber told "GMA" in a telephone interview Friday morning.

Schreiber, who works at the town post office, said their condo unit is on the second floor of a four-story building, so they can move up if the water continues to rise. They ultimately decided not to evacuate because they worried about not being able to get back, he said.

"We knew it would be bad," he said of the storm. "So it's a choice of ... do you leave and not be able to get back or if you try to come back, you get halfway and you're stuck again?"

PHOTO: Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018.Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency due to Florence, which made landfall with 90 mph winds near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m. local time Friday. The storm is moving slowly -- just 5 mph -- in a southwest direction and is expected to reach South Carolina by early Saturday morning, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

The center of the storm was about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as of 11 p.m.

Rainfall in the area is expected to reach 20 to 40 inches over the next several days. Although the storm will continue to weaken as it moves further inland, there is a high risk of flash flooding in the Carolinas through Saturday, and the flooding will likely strike Virginia by Sunday.

"Florence is an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave," Cooper told "GMA" in an interview Friday morning. "This is a slow-moving storm."

Four deaths in North Carolina have been blamed on the storm. A mother and her baby were killed when a tree fell on their house in the port city of Wilmington. The father was transported to a local hospital with injuries, police said.

Pender County Emergency Management public information officer Tammy Proctor told ABC News that one storm-related death was reported in Pender County. No other details were provided.

Gov. Cooper said one person died in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator.

PHOTO: Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C. Sept. 13, 2018.Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP
Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C. Sept. 13, 2018.

Gov. Cooper warned that first responders may not be able to reach everyone immediately due to the treacherous conditions.

"As soon as it is safe, first responders will make sure they go and rescue people who need to be saved from this storm," Cooper said on "GMA."

He urged trapped residents to "hunker down," "stay in your homes," "get to higher floors" and wait for first responders.

"Help will come to you if you can let us know where you are," he said, adding that "we would have rather everybody leave so that we wouldn’t be faced with these situations."

PHOTO: Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home, Sept. 14, 2018, in James City, N.C.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home, Sept. 14, 2018, in James City, N.C.

Craven County spokeswoman Amber Parker said the situation was truly dire in New Bern, which is southeast of Greenville. Some residents there are trapped on their roofs.

"I would say certain areas of New Bern are very desperate," Parker told ABC News in an interview Friday. "There are people that can be trapped in water, in vehicles, on roofs. That's just the situation for anyone."

Parker said private citizens have rescued some people but advised trapped residents to wait until weather conditions allowed first responders to reach them.

PHOTO:
SLIDESHOW: PHOTOS: Hurricane Florence batters the East Coast

The United Cajun Navy has sent hundreds of volunteers from at least nine different states to assist with rescue efforts. The volunteer group has made at least 57 rescue missions in New Bern, saving at least two to three people per mission.

In some cases, the volunteers had to use air mattresses to float people to safety because the storm's gusty winds were toppling rescue boats.

"A lot of people did not get out, tried to drive out and a lot got stuck in conditions on the roads, so a lot of people we were rescuing from the tops of their vehicles," Todd Terrell, founder of the Baton Rouge-based United Cajun Navy, said on "GMA."

Footage taken from the ground in New Bern on Friday afternoon showed flooded streets, downed trees, scattered debris and storefronts blown out. But the full extent of damage to the town was unknown at the time.

Col. Glenn McNeill, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, told reporters at a press conference Friday morning that roadway conditions are deteriorating as flooding gets worse. Overnight, the patrol responded to 108 calls for help and 30 collisions across the state, he said.

Meanwhile, North Carolina National Guard Major General Gregory Lusk said some 2,800 of his troops have been activated.

PHOTO: Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 14, 2018, in James City, N.C.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 14, 2018, in James City, N.C.

More than 615,000 customers were without power across the state on Friday afternoon, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Gov. Cooper told reporters at a press conference Friday morning that utility crews "from all over the country" are standing by to restore power as soon as it's safe to do so.

There are also some 20,000 people in 157 shelters in North Carolina, plus many residents who are staying with family, friends and in hotels, according to the governor.

Cooper said many residents at risk of flooding were moved to higher ground prior to the storm's arrival, and officials will continue to share critical flood mapping information to pinpoint where the next evacuations may be needed.

"We are a hardy bunch, we are resilient, we can get through this," he told "GMA." "We’re going to work hard to make sure people have the resources they need to get through the storm."

ABC News' Matt Foster, Joshua Hoyos, Dominick Proto and Stephanie Wash contributed to this report.

News - 'It's like a bomb has gone off here': Stranded residents hunker down as Florence hammers NC

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CComments

  • colloguy

    Many of these people live in areas that are known risks for flooding.
    Then they seem surprised when during a hurricane they have a flooded house they can't live in.

  • Really

    Those that chose to stay should be left. Those that have children and stayed should be rescued and then charged with child endangerment.

  • Tim Coolio

    I wonder if the "no government" republicans out there are still against government help?

  • nfinityman

    If they actually charge them a rescue fee I'm sure it would change their behavior. Unfortunately, idiot voters will turn on elected officials who actually try to enforce common sense behavior. And, when it comes to government behavior, Its all about appeasing the ever fickle voting public.

    Remember, in the USA no one is responsible for their bad decisions and someone will always be the scapegoat.

  • Freedom?

    I would love to see some data on people that stayed, bet it's around 1 death for every 100,000 that stayed. Those lunatics.

  • Morgan Tortue

    People was abundantly warned concerning the magnitude of this hurricane well in advanced. There was plenty of coverage on tv, radio and newspapers about its potential aftermath as well. . Those that chose to remain behind had full knowledge of the potential consequences of their choice, unless of course they are not mentally capable of making such decision. Now my question is, why should lives and resources be spent on rescuing them? They ought to be charged with endangering other people's llives as well as for the cost of their rescue. Enough babying these fools.

  • The Terminator

    "I think we kind of let our guards down," Zaytoun told "GMA" in a telephone interview Friday morning. "In hindsight, yes, I would have probably gotten out of here."

    --

    "We knew it would be bad," he said of the storm. "So it's a choice of ... do you leave and not be able to get back or if you try to come back, you get halfway and you're stuck again?"

    --

    Something I am shocked not to see. I was sure based on some of the posts in other comment sections about Florence that when they interviewed people who thought it was best to stay, they would blame Trump, "We stayed because of a Trump tweet. We thought Trump controlled the weather. He is a God you know." or something similar.

    I guess the anti Trumpers couldn't prove there agenda. But there is time. This is only 2 that have seen that have been interviewed so far.

    .

  • Mike x

    The last people to be rescued should be the ones in areas that were under "mandatory" evacuation orders. The communities should make it clear to those residents that if they choose to stay they will be put at the bottom of the list to be rescued.

  • Rachel442

    Kids? #1. Animals? #2. Any adults who defied mandatory evacuation orders when they had the option (and ability) to leave? Dead freaking last.

  • ForWhomMyDellTrolls

    What a nation of cowards we have become.

  • vince bingham

    Wow!! like a bomb. A Cat 1 was like a bomb? This is a tropical storm, not even a hurricane. the news will try to make it dramatic of course. My cousin is right there and was saying they were on the boardwalk watching at the coast. The winds are like a very windy day. The news will find the most powerful gust anywhere near and give 90 mph crap. It's very rainy, much flood damage to homes.

  • Susan Riley

    Someone was interviewed on the news last night and they said the reason they were staying behind was "for the thrill of it." In my mind, this person does not deserve to be rescued today or any other day.

  • Cammosutra

    Can I just suggest that this might be a good time to give blood at your local blood bank? A significant portion of the nation's blood supply is being moved closer to the Hurricane impact zone in expectation of injured people needing it.

  • lou g

    The people that decided to wait out the storm don't need immediate evacuation. The people that were trapped should come first.

  • Colinalcarz

    When people need help, let’s help them. Let’s not worry about which people stranded on their roof are worthy of our efforts. God doesn’t keep score, neither should we.

  • DaPicayune

    Has Mayor Outlaw told his Po Po Chief to arrest The Looter Dude and confiscate his Free Flo beer yet?

    Even Mayor Dean needs a cold one now in a Cat 1 blow.

    Thanks Poseidion Trump for saving NC by mitigating Flo to a Cat 1/Trop Storm. The wonders of this President.

  • PoppyLee

    If you stay and need to be rescued you're a fool. You put first responders at unneeded risk.

  • Yonatan Kurovsky

    Lets get something straight, it's a tropical storm, if you live there, YOU KNOW THAT, lived there for years. Storms come and go, don't remember sitting around waiting for someone to save me. Look at the people in the boats, the guy pulling the boat is much older, this isn't about needed to be rescued, this is about being lazy and dependent, which is what the state wanted.

  • Grampa S

    I do hope some of those here gloating about hurricane parties and such have invited their elderly neighbors over to help them feel safe and at home.