The historic flooding that Hurricane Matthew brought to North Carolina is far from over.
The state’s rivers — swollen from what USA Today said was 18 inches of rain in the central and eastern parts of the state — are rushing toward the coast and Gov. Pat McCrory warned Wednesday that the flooding is expected to continue through the end of this week.
McCrory said the death toll in his state from the storm is now at 20. Total U.S. deaths from the storm have reached 36.
The Weather Channel said that in some cases the flooding was similar to conditions Hurricane Floyd caused in 1999. The top rainfall total from Matthew was 18.38 inches near Elizabethtown, followed by 15.65 inches at William O Huske Lock 3 and 14.82 inches in Fayetteville.
The National Weather Service has predicted major flooding along the Neuse, Tar, Lumber and Cape Fear rivers and many other rivers and creeks, the New York Times reported in a story accompanied by dramatic photos of the flooding at several locations.
“This was a huge event," National Weather Service hydrologist Todd Hamill said of Matthew and its collateral damage in the USA Today report. "This isn't just going to go away this weekend. There is a lot of water out there, and it will take time for communities to recover."
The Times said the Neuse River near Goldsboro reached 29 feet, surpassing the peak after Hurricane Floyd. The Neuse is expected to peak in Kinston at 28 feet on Saturday, possibly surpassing the record Floyd set.
“We want you to evacuate these low-lying areas absolutely and immediately,” Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy told WITN-TV. “The time to get out is now.”
Some of the worst flooding was in Lumberton, a city of about 20,000 about 80 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, after the Lumber River shattered its crest record by 4 feet. Helicopters carried residents away from rooftops and rescue boats motored down flooded streets to free people who were stranded in swamped homes.
This video from USA Today shows the extent of the flooding in Lumberton.
USA Today said stretches of I-95 and I-40 were still swamped and closed to traffic. More than 300,000 state residents were without power, and 3,800 were in shelters on Wednesday.
Clean water was a problem for tens of thousands of people. Thirty-four school systems were closed, and "our whole court system is paralyzed," McCrory said.
"It's almost like a surreal environment because since Monday we have had Carolina-blue skies," the governor added. "While we are having beautiful days, people are suffering."
The Washington Post said the waters will not recede below major flood stage in Kinston until about Oct. 22. A “major” flood is the most severe on the National Weather Service scale, and it means that mass evacuations are ordered and property damage is extensive.
“You can attribute that to the many tributaries along the river — the creeks and streams that run into and out of these rivers,” Lara Pagano, a National Weather Service hydrologist, told the Post. “They are just full. They get backed up and the river becomes even more elevated. The water has nowhere to go.”