A man paddles a kayak in a flooded neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Fayetteville, N.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Latest: Car swept off by floodwater; 88-year-old dies

September 17, 2018 - 3:02 pm

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Depression Florence (all times local):

3 p.m.

Officials say an 88-year-old man is dead after his car was swept off a North Carolina road by floodwaters.

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said at a news conference Monday that 88-year-old Clayborn Lee Wright of neighboring Anson County was found dead Monday morning. He says Wright's car was swept off the road by floodwater overnight. He says the window of the car was open so he may have tried to escape.

Union County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Underwood said Wright's death was one of two storm-related deaths in the county overnight. The other was 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch, whose mother told authorities she was swept off the road by floodwaters Sunday night after driving past barricades on the way to visit relatives. She said she lost her grip on her son in the deep water.

Florence has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in the Carolinas.

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3 p.m.

Two North Carolina school systems are apologizing for scheduling classes after flooding made some roads impassable and one school was caught in a ditch near a flooded road.

News outlets report the Durham County and Orange County school systems issued the apology Monday. In Durham County, school officials said that while they made the best decision they could, they were sorry for "the difficulties that came from our decision to open school."

Orange County Schools also apologized on its Facebook page after students were forced to wait for the bus in the rain, standing beside flooded roads. The statement said officials tried to make a decision to keep schools open using the best information it had at the time. "We got it wrong, and we apologize for that."

Parents voiced their concerns on social media, spurred by a video which showed a bus plowing through floodwaters. Emergency officials were dispatched after a report that a school bus headed to an elementary school was caught on a flooded road in Durham.

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3 p.m.

The U.S. military said it's ready to respond to communities ravaged by Hurricane Florence "at a moment's notice."

The U.S. Northern Command on Monday tweeted a quote from Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy. He said he anticipates the military will play a role in response efforts to the Carolinas.

The general said those efforts include search-and-rescue operations and deploying high-water vehicles and swift-water boats in areas with extreme flooding.

Two U.S. Navy ships are in position near the East Coast. They're ready to send in hundreds of Marines and sailors as well as helicopters, landing boats, ground vehicles and generators.

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2:40 p.m.

North Carolina environmental regulators say several open-air manure pits at hog farms have failed and are spilling pollution.

Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan said Monday that the earthen dam at one hog lagoon in Duplin County had been breached. There were also seven reports of lagoon levels going over their tops or being inundated in Jones and Pender counties.

Regan said state investigators will visit the sites as conditions allow.

The large pits at hog farms hold feces and urine from the animals to be sprayed on nearby fields.

The Associated Press published photos of a hog farm outside Trenton on Sunday where a waste pit was completely submerged under floodwaters. The N.C. Pork Council, an industry trade group, later denied there had been any reports of spills.

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2:40 p.m.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has dispatched a small team of workers onto the campus to assess damage in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

In an email sent Monday, officials said the school would remain closed through next Monday, adding that the school won't necessarily reopen on that day. The statement said that means there will be no classes at the school this week. The statement also notes substantial progress has been made in developing a plan for what lies ahead for the school, which has an enrollment of nearly 17,000.

The email cites state and local authorities who say people should not try to return to Wilmington from outside the area, nor should they be traveling on local roads.

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1:30 p.m.

North Carolina's top transportation official says there is now some access into the city of Wilmington, previously cut off by floods from former Hurricane Florence.

Department of Transportation Secretary James Trogdon said Monday that there is one major accessible route into the city of nearly 120,000.

He did not say what road that is, and no other details were available immediately.

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1:30 p.m.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the crisis "continues" in his state due to flooding and tornadoes from Florence.

Cooper said at a news conference Monday that "the danger is still immediate."

He said floodwaters continue to rise as rivers crest "and they will for days."

Cooper said first responders have rescued and evacuated more than 2,600 people and 300 animals from flooded areas so far. He said about 484,000 people in North Carolina are without electricity.

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1:30 p.m.

Air travel was returning to near normal levels in the Florence-hit Southeast on Monday.

According to tracking service FlightAware, about 200 U.S. flights had been canceled by midday, almost all due to the storm and its aftermath. That was down sharply from the weekend.

More than half of Monday's cancellations were in Charlotte or Wilmington, North Carolina. The Wilmington airport remained closed to airlines, and officials said they were waiting for parts to repair a generator breakdown that left the terminal without power. The entire city of Wilmington is currently cut off by floodwaters.

About 3,500 flights were canceled Wednesday, when the storm was approaching the Carolina coast, through Sunday.

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1:30 p.m.

State transportation officials say heavy rains from Tropical Depression Florence have spared most of the western North Carolina mountains.

State Department of Transportation spokesman David Uchiyama (yoo CHI yama) says that as of Monday afternoon, four roads were closed in Yancey County. But he said all of those should be open by the end of the day.

In Henderson County, heavy rains delayed repairs on highway 9 from a previous mud slide that happened June 5. Crews were busy cleaning up dirt that had clogged the roadway. Uchiyama said that road will be open by the end of the day.

Uchiyama says so far the area has had "no other significant damages."

But he also warned that the area is always at risk of mudslides. He said they can happen without warning, sometimes several days or weeks after heavy rainfall.

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12:15 p.m.

Workers with the restaurant chain Waffle House are being brought in from around the country to help keep the company's locations up and running in areas affected by Florence.

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer was picking up a team at the Wilmington, North Carolina, airport on Monday. Ehmer spoke to The Associated Press by phone.

Ehmer says about 150 workers had been brought in as of Monday as part of the company's emergency response team. He says it's part of the company's culture to never close. The extra hands were partly needed because some local workers had to evacuate.

The chain is so well known for staying open no matter what that former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate created the so-called Waffle House Index. Fugate used the restaurants as a benchmark for how quickly local communities could rebound from hurricanes. Under the index, a closed Waffle House was a bad sign.

Ehmer says Waffle House is having to fly some food into Wilmington, which has been cut off from road access by Florence's floodwaters.

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11:30 a.m.

Authorities say two homes in North Carolina were slightly damaged by a suspected tornado.

Wayne County spokesman Joel Gillie said the tornado landed early Monday near Pikeville, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Goldsboro.

Gillie says no one was hurt, but the powerful winds spinning off the remnants of Florence caused major damage to the roof of one home.

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11:30 a.m.

A rail company says it's investigating whether heavy rains from Florence contributed to a train derailment in North Carolina.

CSX said in a news release that the derailment happened Sunday night in Anson County, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Charlotte.

The railroad company said nine locomotives and five railcars ran off the track.

The company said none of the cars was carrying hazardous materials. But some of the locomotives spilled diesel fuel and motor oil. The company says it is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the cleanup. The two train crew members were taken to local hospitals to be treated for minor injuries.

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11:30 a.m.

A weakening Tropical Depression Florence is forecast to drop up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain over parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New England over the next few days.

By 11 a.m. Monday, Florence was centered about 240 miles (385 kilometers) west of Charlottesville, Virginia, and moving northeast at 15 mph (24 kph).

The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, says Florence's top sustained winds have dropped to 25 mph (35 kph) but the system still poses an excessive rain threat.

Forecasters say tornadoes also were possible Monday from the Carolinas into parts of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Authorities say two homes in North Carolina were slightly damaged by a suspected tornado early Monday. No one was injured.

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10:40 a.m.

A North Carolina sheriff's office says it has recovered the body of a 1-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters after his mother lost her grip on him.

The Union County Sheriff's Office identified the boy on its Facebook page Monday as Kaiden Lee-Welch.

Spokesman Tony Underwood said a woman and her child were on their way to visit relatives when she drove past some barricades on N.C. Highway 218 in northern Union County. The woman later told authorities someone had pushed the barricades to the side a little, making her think it was OK to go through.

The woman's car was swept off the road by the floodwaters, pinning it against a group of trees. She was able to free 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch from his car seat and escape. But the waters were deep, and Underwood said the woman lost her grip and her son was swept away.

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10 a.m.

Two U.S. Navy warships carrying helicopters and rescue equipment are in position off the East Coast to help with the response to hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement Monday that the amphibious attack assault ship USS Kearsarge and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington are available to provide support if it's requested by civilian officials.

The ships are ready deploy hundreds of Marines and sailors as well as Osprey aircraft, helicopters, landing boats, ground vehicles and generators. The sailors and Marines are capable of conducting search-and-rescue missions as well as clearing debris.

Military officials said the USNS Comfort hospital ship has not been deployed because communities surrounding the disaster area are able to provide adequate medical services.

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10 a.m.

President Donald Trump has approved federal funding to aid recovery efforts in areas of South Carolina affected by Florence.

In a news release Monday, the White House said Trump had declared that a major disaster exists in the state. He ordered that federal aid be used "to supplement state, tribal and local" recovery efforts in the state.

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9:30 a.m.

The devastating flooding in North Carolina from Florence has raised concerns about whether some dams will be able to hold up under the strain.

According to data obtained by The Associated Press, the state has 1,445 dams rated high hazard. That's out of a total of about 5,700 dams that range from large federal ones to small privately owned ones.

A high hazard classification means a failure could be likely to cause the loss of one or more human lives.

The data show that of the state's high-hazard dams, 185 had conditions of poor or unsatisfactory during recent inspections.

The data comes from the National Inventory of Dams.

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9:30 a.m.

Florence has left about 500,000 customers without power, most of them in North Carolina.

About 467,000 customers were without service in North Carolina, including in the Wilmington area, which is surrounded by floodwaters and has been cut off.

About 17,000 customers were without service in South Carolina, mostly in northeastern South Carolina near the North Carolina state line.

About 12,000 customers were without service in Virginia. Most of those were the southwestern part of the state.

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9:30 a.m.

Dozens of roads are closed in the western parts of Virginia as Florence circles its way across the state.

State transportation officials said early Monday that roads are blocked by downed trees or covered with standing water.

Appalachian Power reported more than 7,000 Virginia customers were without power early Tuesday.

Florence brought heavy rains to parts of Virginia late Sunday and early Monday as the storm trekked north. Virginia officials have warned residents to brace for significant rainfall and possible flash flooding in the southwest and southern part of the state. The city of Roanoke asked residents who live in flood plains to voluntarily evacuate.

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9:30 a.m.

Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin assessing the impact of Tropical Storm Florence.

Park officials said in a statement Monday that areas of the park that straddle Tennessee and North Carolina will be opened to the public once they are deemed safe. Facilities and roads that were closed in anticipation of the storm remained closed early Monday.

Other roads and facilities have remained open, including the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers.

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8:20 a.m.

Authorities are searching for a 1-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters in North Carolina after the boy's mother lost her grip on him.

Union County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Underwood said a woman and her child were on their way to visit relatives Sunday night when she drove past some barricades on highway 218 in northern Union County. The woman later told authorities someone had pushed the barricades to the side a little, making her think it was OK to go through.

The woman's car was swept off the road by the floodwaters, pinning it against a group of trees. She was able to free 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch from his car seat and escape. But the waters were deep, and Underwood said the woman lost her grip and her son was swept away.

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6:20 a.m.

A train has derailed in North Carolina, but it's not clear whether it was storm-related.

WBTV reports that the CSX train derailed Sunday evening in Anson County, east of the state's largest city of Charlotte.

The station says the derailment led to at least one road closure.

The station cites CSX officials as saying that the derailment involved several cars on a train headed to Hamlet, North Carolina.

Officials have reported flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence in Union County, located between Charlotte and Anson County.

They did not say whether there were any injuries or what the train was carrying.

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1 a.m.

With Wilmington cut off from the rest of North Carolina by still-rising floodwaters from Florence, officials plan to airlift food and water to a city of nearly 120,000 people as rescuers elsewhere pull inland residents from homes threatened by swollen rivers.

The spreading disaster claimed additional lives Sunday, with at least 17 people confirmed dead, and the nation's top emergency official said other states were in the path this week.

Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says not only to expect more impacts in North Carolina, but also "you are about to see a lot of damage going through West Virginia, all the way up to Ohio as the system exits out."

In Wilmington, the state's eighth-largest city, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants on Sunday for basic necessities like water. Police guarded the door of one store, and only 10 people were allowed inside at a time.

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For the latest on Florence, visit www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes

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