Major flooding lingering more than a week after Florence

People navigate floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence near the Waccamaw River on September 23, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina. Floodwaters are expected to continue to rise in Conway over the next two days. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

BLADENBORO, N.C. — More than a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall, thousands of coastal residents were told Sunday that they may need to leave their homes because of still-rising rivers.

About 6,000 to 8,000 people in Georgetown County, South Carolina, were told to prepare to evacuate ahead of a “record event” of up to 10 feet (3 meters) of flooding expected because of heavy rains dumped by Florence, county spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said. She said the flooding is expected to start Tuesday near parts of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers and people in the potential flood zones should plan to leave their homes Monday.

In North Carolina, five river gauges were still at major flood stage and five others were at moderate flood stage, according to National Weather Service. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest and remain at flood stage through the early part of the week, and parts of Interstates 95 and 40 are expected to remain underwater for another week or more.

“Hurricane Florence has deeply wounded our state, wounds that will not fade soon as the flood waters finally recede,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday. The storm claimed least 43 lives since slamming into the coast Sept. 14.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry said that eastern counties continue to see major flooding, including areas along the Black, Lumber, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

He said residents who register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency can begin moving into hotels Monday. The program initially will be open to residents in nine counties and then will be expanded. A FEMA coordinator said about 69,000 people from North Carolina already have registered for assistance.

On the Outer Banks, at least three wild horse herds survived Florence, but caretakers were still trying to account for one herd living on a hard-hit barrier island, the News & Observer reported Sunday. Staff members are planning to make trips to the island this week to check on the Shackleford Banks herd.

North Carolina environmental officials also said they’re closely monitoring two sites where Florence’s floodwaters have inundated coal ash sites .

An economic research firm estimated that Hurricane Florence has caused around $44 billion in damage and lost output, which would make it one of the top 10 costliest U.S. hurricanes. The top disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cost $192.2 billion in today’s dollars, while last year’s Hurricane Harvey cost $133.5 billion

Moody’s Analytics estimates Florence has caused $40 billion in damage and $4 billion in lost economic output, though the company stressed that the estimate is preliminary and could go higher or lower.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has estimated damage from the flood in his state at $1.2 billion. He asked congressional leaders to hurry federal aid.