Swansboro, N.C., got 34 inches of rain - and it's still coming down
Florence has weakened to a tropical depression but forecasters warn the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history. The National Hurricane Center says the effect is expected to be "catastrophic." (Sept. 16)
It started raining Thursday in the quaint North Carolina tourist town of Swansboro, and 34 inches later, it was still raining Sunday.
The good news is that it's supposed to stop – on Wednesday.
"We broke the state record for rain at one time," Mayor John Davis said. "But, considering the strength of the storm and how long it has stayed, we did pretty well."
The storm is Florence, and it roared onto the North Carolina coast last week and hasn't left. Swansboro, the self-proclaimed "friendly city by the sea," is home to about 3,000 people, on the Intracoastal Waterway about 80 miles northeast of Wilmington.
Davis told USA TODAY that he doesn't want to downplay the hardships facing many residents as the cleanup moves forward. But he said roads have been cleared and efforts to restore power, a process that could take two weeks to complete, are underway.
Davis said a few homes did flood. Storm surge caused minor damage to some businesses near the water. And the wind when the Florence first hit took a toll.
"In our historic district, we had 10 roofs peel off like the top of cans," he said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Oravec said other cities also are likely to see rain totals reaching 30 inches before the rain finally stops later in the week.
"This is historic in terms of the amount of rain from one storm," Oravec said.
Davis, who has served as mayor for 10 months, estimated that about half of Swansboro's residents are riding out the storm. He spent the last few days holed up in the public safety building with first responders, watching over his town.
"The days all blend together," he said. "But we are moving forward."