(RALEIGH, N.C.) — With the death toll in North Carolina climbing to 19 Wednesday in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the governor is urging residents to “stay away from the water” as rising rivers bring record flooding.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday morning that the priorities are the communities along the Neuse River and Tar River.
The Tar River at Tarboro could peak Wednesday, closing the Greenville bridge.
The Neuse River, which has already reached record levels at Smithfield, is expected to crest at a record level at Kinston on Saturday. Crests are projected for some areas along the Neuse River to surpass record levels from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
McCrory said he “cannot emphasize enough to stay away from the water.”
“It will kill you,” he said.
The death toll in North Carolina rose to 19 Wednesday, up from 17 on Tuesday. One man died when he was swept away from floodwater, authorities said. The other death was driving-related.
The North Carolina town of Princeville is nearly completely evacuated, McCrory said, and evacuations are ongoing in Moore County, near Woodlake Dam.
“You cannot guarantee that dam will hold,” McCrory said, and urged anyone still there to leave.
While some students are returning to school, they are having trouble getting there because portions of Interstate 95 — a major East Coast artery — remain closed because of the flooding.
The storm also shut down courts.
Overall, the storm has killed 37 people across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, according to authorities.
Before Matthew weakened and veered out to sea on Sunday, it brought winds of up to 100 mph, as much as 15 inches of rain and powerful storm surges of up to 9 feet in some areas.
The storm led to the evacuation of more than three million coastal residents, caused widespread power outages and has left billions of dollars in damage in its wake.
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