Hurricane Matthew's death toll in the state rises to 20
WASHINGTON — Hurricane Matthew is being blamed for the deaths of at least 39 people in the United States, with 20 of those deaths occurring in North Carolina.
All but one of the North Carolina deaths occurred because of flooding, which continues to be a threat in the state.
Some rivers have crested but some are still rising, including the Tar River north of Greenville. That river rose to 24.8 feet at dawn on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, and is not expected to crest until Saturday.
The floods have spread to the Pitt-Greenville Airport, which is closed. The National Guard has arrived in Greenville.
In Florida, 20 deaths were reported, and Georgia and South Carolina both reported three deaths.
In the Southeast, 172,000 homes and businesses that lost power during the hurricane are still in the dark, including 90,000 in North Carolina.
Residents still are being evacuated out of the areas jeopardized by flooding, while 3,800 people remain in shelters.
“Several thousand people” will be moved into hotels, then moved into trailers, Gov. Pat McCrory told the Weather Channel at a shelter in Lumberton, one of the cities hardest hit by flooding.
Despite the blue skies and warm weather sunshine, “we’re still going through Hurricane Matthew here,” McCrory said.
“It’s heartbreaking to see what is happening,” he said. “Water kills.”
“People have lost everything,” McCrory said. “They have lost their homes, they have lost their medicine, they have lost their cars…they lost their pets.”
Three major highways remain closed in North Carolina, including I-95. “We still have a stream going through I-95,” McCrory said, noting that several people died on the roads.
The governor praised the assistance the state is receiving from the federal government. “FEMA is doing an outstanding job,” he said.
North Carolina officials have identified the man who was shot dead by a state trooper searching for flood victims on Monday.
The state Department of Public Safety on Wednesday identified the deceased man as Dennis Hunt, 56, of Lumberton. The trooper who shot Hunt was identified as Sgt. J.F. Hinson, who has been with the patrol for 13 years. He has been placed on administrative leave.
Hinson, along with two members of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, were conducting search-and-rescue operations Monday at about 8 p.m. when they encountered Hunt on a flooded street, the department said.
“The male became hostile towards the officers and displayed a handgun,” according to a statement the department released after the shooting. “After observing the handgun, the sergeant shot the man, who succumbed to his injuries.”
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.