Hurricane Florence pounded the state with high winds and extremely heavy rains for several days. Rain started falling before the storm’s official landfall on Sept. 14, and was still falling on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The National Weather Service reported that Florence dumped more than eight trillion gallons of water on the state—some three feet of rain on parts of the state, Reuters reported.
Here's the unofficial, radar-estimated storm total rainfall from #Florence over all NC (actual gauge-measured amounts not included). Using the average rainfall over the state, Florence dropped about 8.04 TRILLION gallons of rain on NC. #ncwx pic.twitter.com/Y7nKsAoqMp
— NWS Raleigh (@NWSRaleigh) September 18, 2018
State officials told Reuters that more than 15,000 people were still in shelters and more than 200,000 customers are without power across North Carolina were without electricity because of Florence as of Sept. 18.
On Sept. 18, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said that 16 rivers had reached major flood stages and more were yet to peak.
Governor Cooper urged some 10,000 evacuees not to return home yet, particularly those in the Wilmington area.
Though the heavy rains of #Florence have moved out of the Carolinas and Virginia, many rivers are in flood, STILL…
The Cape Fear River, which borders the city of 120,000 on the west side, is expected to reach a peak of more than 61 feet, four times its normal height, at some time on Sept. 19, according to the National Weather Service.
Drive safe after #Florence. Do NOT drive into flooded areas & standing water. As little as 6 inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Learn steps you can take to protect your #health after the storm: https://t.co/X56GYukUxB pic.twitter.com/L7uBDAjIPu
— CDC Emergency (@CDCemergency) September 17, 2018
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told the Associated Press that the city, which had been cut off by flooding, could now be reached via two roads, but the incipient flooding expected from the Cape Fear River made it possible for those roads to be closed at any time.
Trees in the Yard, Holes in the Roof
Michael White of Jacksonville, North Carolina, returned to his home on Sept. 18, to check out the damage.
Jacksonville is northwest of Wilmington, near Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base. The city of nearly 70,000 was flooded with chest-high water during the peak of the storm.
White lived in a mobile home on Wardola Street, but the storm left it uninhabitable. A tree fell on his home, ripping holes in the roof, while everything inside was saturated by the rising water.
“It’s totaled, no good, done,” he said, surveying the wreckage of his home.
The tree basically crushed the house.
“You can literally be in the house and see the sky.”
Despite the damage, White returned on Sept 17, to spend one last night in his destroyed dwelling.
“You can’t replace this,” he told the Associated Press.
“There’s too much love, too much years, too much blood, sweat and tears, too much happiness too much family love was surrounding this home,” he said.
“Even if FEMA tears it down and builds another one, it’s still not going to be this.”
White had shared the home with his aunt, uncle, and his brother. “Basically we all have to find somewhere to stay now,” he said.
Just a few hours after Hurricane Florence made landfall, on the night of Sept. 14, the Associated Press caught video of some brave volunteers rescuing White’s dog from the residence.
White and his family had planned to transport the pets to a farm farther inland, but got cut off by the rising water. Luckily some people saw the trapped pets and were able to rescue the animals.
White told AP that the city had contacted him, telling him his dogs were safe and “in good hands.”
The home sat on land the family owned—the home and the land were about all they had. “Your whole sense of humor, everything kind of goes out the window when all you knew is gone, by a tree.”
Michael White said he was going to pick up whatever of his possessions might be salvageable—and then he would try to forget his old home and look into finding a new one for the future.
Some of the very few of his possessions which remained undamaged were photographs of his mother and his grandmother—photographs which would have been impossible to replace. “I really think it’s going to be alright, he said, looking at the family photographs. It’s just going to be hard to go through.”
After looking around, White sat down on a battered couch and considered his fate.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” he told AP.
“So if it’s God’s will for me to go through this and actually for me to get it from the mud, literally, and to come up on my feet, man, I’m all for it.
“I just don’t understand.”