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Death Toll Rises To 19, Serious Flooding Continues For Portions Of NC

Jay Price
Flooding along NC 211 near Lumberton make roads impassable on Monday, October 10, 2016.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says more damage is still to come for many people in the eastern part of North Carolina as the state faces another day of Hurricane Matthew's aftermath.

He also said the state's death toll from the storm has risen to 19. Nationwide, 34 people have died as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

At a news conference Wednesday in Raleigh, McCrory said serious flooding is heading downstream even though the weather now looks beautiful.

“There are a lot of people that are hurting and living in shelters,” said McCrory, noting 3,800 people remain in shelters as numerous rivers approach their crests. “And it's just very hard to convince people of [that] because it is such a beautiful day North Carolina. It is a surreal experience.”

Related: As Water Pours Toward Sounds, Worst Of Flooding Yet To Come

The governor said major flood issues remain in Robeson County, and charities and pharmacies are working to get food and medical care to displaced residents. Two major interstates and many smaller roadways remain flooded as rivers continue to rise.

The governor is especially worried about the Tar River in Greenville and the Neuse River in Goldsboro.

Four counties have been added to the federal disaster declaration: Bertie, Wayne, Johnston and Wilson counties.


Mandatory evacuations continue for portions of southeastern North Carolina

Homeowners, students and businesses in one of eastern North Carolina's population centers are keeping a nervous watch on the river that flows along downtown, as authorities ordered evacuations for about one-tenth of Greenville's 90,000 people. The Tar River is expected crest Wednesday.

Military trucks rumbled through leafy neighborhoods Tuesday where orange traffic cones and police tape discouraged people from entering. Police officers were stationed at the edge of the evacuation zone to monitor who came and went.

Related: Dam Breached: Sixty Miles Of I-95 Closed In Matthew's Aftermath

David Baker, whose family owns the River Bank Apartments, said all but one of their tenants had heeded the evacuation order by Tuesday, and he was spending the afternoon putting boards and sealant across the doorways of ground-floor units.

Mandatory evacuations have also been issued for 631 homes, businesses and schools along the Black River basin, east of Moore's Creek National Battlefield in Pender County.

The Pender County Office of Emergency Management issued the order Tuesday afternoon

Emergency Management Director Tom Collins said in a news release that the river was rising between 3 and 5 inches each hour and there are homes already under water. Collins says the river could reach levels the area hasn't seen since 1945.

The American Red Cross and Pender Health and Human Services are coordinating shelters.

So far no rescues have been made by Pender County responders in the aftermath of the storm.

Concerns over crop damage grow

Officials are also worried that Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent floods have jeopardized crops in the state.

Peanuts, soybeans, and cotton are close to harvest, but are threatened by flooded farmland in eastern counties.

Most tobacco was harvested before the hurricane hit, but some of the product is in danger of rotting in barns because power outages have caused disruptions to the curing process.

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Brian Long said as rivers continue to rise, livestock and poultry growers have undoubtedly lost animals that need to be disposed of soon.

“Once the waters do start to recede and access to farms becomes possible, then we're prepared to act quickly to address those issues,” said Long, adding he’s heard no reports of breaches at hog waste lagoons.

N.C. Peanut Growers Association CEO Bob Sutter said last year was a down year for peanut farmers and another bad season could be "devastating."

Dam safety a concern for officials

Dam safety officials have found a large and growing hole in the Woodlake dam in Moore County. County officials say large sections of concrete have either collapsed or washed out over the last 24 hours due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

County Commissioner Nick Picero said that the hole was the size of a car last night, but this afternoon, it's much larger.

"You could probably put three or four of those trucks in that same hole, and that's just since last night when we were there about 1:30 in the morning,” said Pircero during a press conference live-streamed on wtvd.com.

Areas downstream of the dam are under a mandatory evacuation. The Woodlake Dam is privately owned. Public records show state inspectors gave it a rating of "poor" on its last inspection in 2013. The state categorizes the dam as high hazard--meaning loss of life and serious damage are likely if the dam is breached.

Goldman Sachs estimates the storm likely caused $10 billion in damage.

Authorities stay the number of power outages in the state has dropped to 143,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.