Mainers living in the Carolinas braced themselves for worsening conditions Saturday afternoon as Tropical Storm Florence continued to lash the region with steady rain, which is expected to cause treacherous flooding and widespread power outages for days.

Although the storm has decreased in intensity since it made landfall Thursday night, some towns already reported receiving up to 2 feet of rain, with as much as 3½ feet expected in some areas, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly a million households were without power, and that number was expected to climb, as Florence flattened homes, brought down trees and washed away roadways. The 350-mile-wide storm is expected to hover inland as its energy dissipates. According to the Associated Press, at least 11 people have died already and more could perish as the storm continues, local officials fear.

For Geoff Dardia, 42, floodwaters were already beginning to rise Saturday in his area of Hope Mills, North Carolina, a community south of Fayetteville that is at least two hours from the coast.

Dardia, who is originally from Kennebunkport, said he’s watching closely as the waters in a creek behind his home have climbed 10 feet already. Reached by cellphone Saturday afternoon, Dardia said he was out driving the neighborhood to watch which streets flood first, and to see if any gas stations remained open.

Dardia said he’s prepared to stay put as long as the waters don’t encroach onto his yard, he said.

“If (the water) hits my property line in the back, we’re out,” said Dardia. “Because that’s like 40 feet above where the creek is now. During hurricane Matthew (in 2016), it hit right behind my property line. So if it gets up beyond that, we’ll think about packing up and leaving.”

Alicia Mitchell, who is originally from New Vineyard, said she chose to hunker down with a friend’s family at a home equipped with generators and is farther from the coast than her place in Hubert, only 10 minutes from the beach. Power has been out where she’s staying in Richlands, North Carolina, since Thursday, she said.

“Pretty much every road around us has flooded out,” said Mitchell, 36.

Before the storm hit, forecasts called for a more dramatic wind and storm surge. But the storm’s slow movement and unrelenting rain have become a large problem.

“They were talking about 150 mph winds, but the flooding has been way more than we thought it would be in this area,” Mitchell said.

Despite the prolonged outage, Mitchell said she considers herself lucky.

“We have generators so we’ve actually been able to cook dinners and eat hot food, which is a lot more than other people have,” she said.

Josie Conn, who also is originally from New Vineyard and now lives in Rock Hill, North Carolina, about 3½ hours from the coast, said she was just beginning to see the early effects of the storm around 5 p.m. Saturday. Gusting winds began to bend trees, and soon she expected the downpour to begin.

Sometimes strong weather brings tornado warnings in her area, said Conn, 37, so she and her family practiced how to huddle together in their pantry, the most centrally located room in their house.

Being so far away from shore means Conn can hope for less damage, but she and everyone around her are at the mercy of the winds now.

“That’s what I’m afraid of is losing power – it inconveniences you all the way around,” Conn said.

 

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