LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina state trooper shot and killed an armed man during a search and rescue operation, authorities said Tuesday, and thousands of people were told to get to higher ground as the flooding from Hurricane Matthew moved downstream.
In Greenville, officials warned the Tar River would overwhelm every bridge in the county by sundown, splitting it in half before the river crests late Wednesday. An angry Gov. Pat McCrory asked his citizens to stop refusing evacuation orders and driving around barricades blocking flooded roads.
“As a governor, that is unacceptable. You are not only putting your life danger, you are putting emergency responders’ lives in jeopardy,” McCrory said Tuesday.
The U.S. death toll rose to 30 — half of them in North Carolina. Authorities reported four more fatalities Tuesday — three motorists washed away by flood waters and a man whose car was struck by a tree. Florida also raised its death count to eight. In Haiti, officials said more than 500 were dead from the storm.
Rescue teams returned to work across eastern North Carolina as at least three rivers were forecast to reach record levels, some not cresting until Friday.
In hard-hit Lumberton, a trooper was riding with two Robeson County deputies on a Humvee through about 4 feet of flood waters around 8 p.m. Monday when they confronted an angry man who had a gun, Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Gordon said in a statement.
Gordon didn’t say why the man was angry and released few other details about the shooting. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating. The names and races of the trooper and the man killed have not been released.
McCrory would only say the shooting happened under “very difficult circumstances.”
The full extent of the disaster in North Carolina was still unclear, but it appeared that thousands of homes were damaged and more were in harm’s way.
Officials said a dam in danger of a breach was so far holding. Crews worked until about 2 a.m. Tuesday to add sandbags to reduce the threat, Deputy Public Safety Director Scott Brooks said.
Once the work is finished, it needs to be inspected before the Moore County residents could return home.
In many areas, Matthew’s aftermath was compared to Hurricane Floyd, which did $3 billion in damage and destroyed 7,000 homes as it skirted the coast in 1999.
McCrory said thousands of animals drowned — mostly chickens on poultry farms — and he was deciding on rules for disposing of the carcasses. Floyd left behind its own environmental crisis from livestock farming, when waste from hog lagoons mixed with flood waters in a toxic mess.
On Monday, for the first time, the governor began talking about recovery, saying he would form a task force and get private businesses to help.
State officials concerned that other cities could suffer a fate similar to Lumberton, a community of 22,000 people about 80 miles from the ocean. With electricity cut off in the storm’s wake, there was virtually no gasoline, water or food for sale.
The Rev. Volley Hanson worried that stress from the lack of running water and electricity might push people over the edge. Robeson County, which includes Lumberton, had North Carolina’s highest violent crime rate in 2014.
“The cash is going to be running out. We’ve already got street vendors hawking water, Cokes and cigarettes. Cigarettes are at seven bucks a pack,” Hanson said. “It’s nuts here, and it’s going to get worse.”
The Lumber River crested 4 feet above its record level Sunday in Lumberton and was forecast to remain above the record until next Sunday.
In the tiny town of Nichols, South Carolina, downstream from Lumberton, at least 100 people spent the night on the third floor of the town hall waiting to be rescued.
Interstate 95 — a major artery for the East Coast — was closed in Lumberton and engineers didn’t know when it would reopen. Driving was difficult, if not impossible because hundreds of roads were closed, in some cases isolating entire towns. Dozens of school districts and colleges canceled classes for the entire week.
Authorities in coastal Georgia and South Carolina warned residents it may take days or even weeks to restore electricity and clean up the debris. People grew increasingly frustrated when they were blocked from returning home by authorities who said the damage was still too severe.
Matthew’s flooding in North Carolina was worsened September’s heavy rainfall. Many areas east of I-95 got at least twice their normal amount of rain in September, in part because the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia parked off the coast for several days.
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