As the death toll from Florence rose and hundreds of people were expelled from flooded homes, North Carolina was ready for the next phase of a catastrophic catastrophe: widespread catastrophic flooding, with grave consequences for local residents and environmental security.
As the death toll rose to 11, Mitch Colvin, the mayor of Fayetteville City, told reporters, "The worst is yet to come."
On Saturday night, Duke Energy said heavy rains were causing a collapse on a coal ash landfill in a closed power plant outside of Wilmington. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said about 2,000 cubic meters of ash had been displaced in the Sutton plant and that contaminated rainwater was likely to have flowed into the cooling water pond of the plant.
Sutton was mothballed in 2013 and the company dug up ashes to bring them to safer landfills. The ashes left over from burning coal contain toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.
After flying ashore as a 90mph hurricane, Florence practically parked over the Carolinas for much of the weekend as it pulled warm water out of the ocean and hurled it ashore. Storm surges, flash floods and winds scattered the devastation, and the Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy vehicles to carry out rescues.
Florence weakened on Sunday to a tropical depression and crept west at 8 miles per hour. At 5 am, the storm was centered about 20 miles southwest of Columbia, South Carolina. His winds were up to 35mph.
But in North Carolina, the rivers swelled to record levels, warned forecasters, and thousands of people were instructed to evacuate, fearing that the next few days could provoke the most devastating tidal wave in state history.
The flowmeters showed that the water levels were steadily rising, and forecasts demanded that rivers rise to record highs on Sunday and Monday: the Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were supposed to explode their banks.
Authorities demanded the evacuation of up to 7,500 people within a mile of the Fear River and Little River, about 100 miles from the coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, 200,000 inhabitants.
Fayetteville officials received help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate about 140 residents of a residential facility to a safer location in a church.
"That's not a topic of conversation," said Mayor Colvin. "This is not a script, but we say that because we take care of you, the worst is yet to come."
"If you refuse to go during this compulsory evacuation, you have to do things the next of kin inform you, and the loss of life is very, very possible."
The governor of the state, Roy Cooper, underlined the message: "I can not overdo it: the floodwaters are rising, and if you do not take care of them, you risk your life."
The dead included a mother and a baby killed by a falling tree in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina suffered its first death from the storm, with officials saying that a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car struck a tree that fell over a highway.
Three died inland, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, authorities said. A man and a woman died in a storm storm, officials said, and an 81-year-old man died after falling to packing for evacuation.
The White House declared a major catastrophe in the state and said that Donald Trump would visit storm-hit areas next week.
When the official toll on Saturday was lower, Trump tweeted: "So far, there have been five deaths in relation to Hurricane Florence! Deepest sympathies and warmth go to the families and friends of the victims, may God be with them!"