Hundreds of residents who ignored evacuation orders before Hurricane Florence now feel remorse for the ransom request of first responders, who try their best and compete against the weather as floods increase.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth," said Tom Ballance, owner of a restaurant in New Bern, in his decision not to evacuate.
Fast-water rescue teams had saved more than 360 people in New Bern by mid-afternoon on Friday, and another 140 were still waiting for help, a city spokeswoman said. The city was placed under mandatory evacuation orders before the storm, but many there and elsewhere chose to ignore the order.
New Bern, though not directly on the coast, was flooded by a massive 10-foot swell when the adjacent Neuse River overflowed on Thursday night when Florence simultaneously drove large amounts of rain over the area, as much as 19.4 inches in the vicinity Morehead City.
Firefighters use a boat to rescue three people from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence in New Bern on Friday
Robert Simmons Jr. and his kitten & # 39; Survivor & # 39; are rescued from the floods in New Bern on Friday after Florence
Volunteers from across North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes in New Bern
Floods from heavy rain are forcing hundreds of people to apply for emergency rescue in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which is at the confluence of the Nuese and Trent rivers.
Ballance said his wife went to Atlanta and stayed at his New Bern home with his three dogs and a cat. Around 3:30 pm on Thursday, the electricity was cut off. Around midnight, his rain gauge showed that he had received nine inches of rain since mid-afternoon. He fell asleep.
About 40 minutes later, he woke up and went to a sun room, where he had bricked up all the windows except for a small hole. He flashed a flashlight through the glass.
"I almost jumped out of my skin," he said in a telephone interview Friday morning. "These were waves breaking."
Those waves came from the Neuse River, which is about 25 feet away, and downhill, from your house. He made a plan B: if the water reached the house, he would take the pets to the second floor.
"The water kept rising and kept going up," he said.
But the water never came to his house. Ballance said the rain was "biblical" and said he had received reports from friends that his seafood restaurant in the city center was flooded, as was the rest of the downtown area.
More than 1.7 million people in North and South Carolina were under evacuation orders before Florence arrived, but it is unclear how many of them decided to stay.
One of New Bern's iconic bears is in the center of a flooded street in the center of the city after being displaced by floods
New Bern resident Teddie Davis reviews another of the bears that was shot down and damaged by Hurricane Florence
A rescue team from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion evacuates a family as flooding from Hurricane Florence threatens its home in New Bern on Friday
Members of the rescue team Sgt. Matt Locke (left) and the sergeant. Nick Muhar (right) evacuates a flood family in New Bern
A rescue team from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion evacuates an elderly woman from her apartment as the rising floods from Hurricane Florence threaten her home in New Bern on Friday
On Friday night, the center of the current tropical storm had moved south of the border into South Carolina, raising fears that Myrtle Beach could be cut off from the mainland by floods when authorities suspended emergency service .
On Friday, however, much of the rescue activity was focused on New Bern, where authorities threw the famous Louisiana Cajun marina out of town despite the large number of rescue orders, saying they would be driven to through official channels and by local volunteers.
The city of about 29,000 inhabitants, which was founded at the beginning of the 18th century and was briefly the capital of the state, is close to the coast of North Carolina and borders to the east and south, respectively, two rivers, the Neuse and the Trent. .
Sixty-seven years old, Sadie Marie Holt was among those rescued on Friday in New Bern.
Holt, who has diabetes and clogged arteries, said he stayed for appointments with the doctor that were canceled at the last minute. He tried to leave his neighborhood on Thursday night with a boat that was in his yard after his house began to flood, but had to retire due to poor conditions.
"The wind was so hard, the water was so hard that when we tried to get out, they put us in trailers, they threw us into the mailboxes, Casas Árboles," Holt said.
Volunteers help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes in New Bern during Hurricane Florence on Friday
Volunteer lifeguards are seen navigating the flooded streets of New Bern, where hundreds remained despite evacuation orders
The houses flooded after a storm surge caused by Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River on Friday in New Bern
Boats launched from the dock are seen on a street during the passage of hurricane Florence in the city of New Bern
Dawn Baldwin Gibson, 47, a minister and founder of a private school that lives on a farm near the coast in nearby Pamlico County and runs a Facebook page on weather in eastern North Carolina, was evacuated to New Bern to stay with your family, thinking to be a safer place.
Gibson said Friday that while she and her family were safe, she and her husband had received about 75 calls and text messages from others asking for help.
"And from that point on, we started listening to what people said in the phone calls," I love you, "to the members of their family because they were not sure they would come out alive from her," he said Friday.
"It's as if a bomb has been fired," New Bern resident George Zaytoun told Good Friday America on Friday. & # 39; Everything that surrounds us is under water & # 39;
Zaytoun now regrets his decision to stay. "I think we left the guards low," he said of his community's response to the degradation of the storm before making landfall.
The National Weather Service said flash floods are expected to continue for the rest of Friday in New Bern and the surrounding areas. A 24-hour curfew was in effect.
Roberts, the city's spokeswoman, said preliminary estimates show that about 4,300 residences and 300 commercial buildings were damaged. She said that the count is expected to increase significantly.
Firefighters use a boat to rescue three people from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence in New Bern
New Bern firefighters use a boat to rescue people from their homes flooded during Hurricane Florence
Rescuers take residents to a safe place after they remained in the mandatory evacuation zone during Hurricane Florence
In other parts of the evacuation zones, residents were also prevented from making the decision to stay and asked how they would escape.
Across the Neuse River, in New Bern, Bayboro, resident Kim Dunn, mother of a 10-month-old boy, a 3-year-old boy and a boy of 8, said he made the decision to stay behind while others fled.
"We were trying to find out if we had enough finances to go out and if we were going out, could we go back home? So we made the decision to stay," he told ABC News. "I do not know how long it will be before the water starts entering the department."
While trying to escape on Friday, she was trapped in her truck surrounded by water while her boyfriend and cousin were stranded in a boat less than a mile away.
The water was as high as street signs, and "we have no way to get to them," Dunn said.
"They have been there for about six hours and now they just scream for help," he said. "The only communication we have with them is that I am showing them my lights and I think they have a flashlight that is blinking us again."
A family is stuck in the water while waiting to be rescued during the passage of Hurricane Florence in the city of New Bern
Water from the Neuse River floods the streets during the passage of Hurricane Florence in the city of New Bern
About 75 miles southwest, at Sneads Ferry, resident Jeanette Rivera said staying put seemed like a good idea until the devastation became clear on Friday.
"I'm really mad at myself for staying," Jeanette Rivera, 47, told NBC News. I just want to get out of here & # 39;
"Half of my dock is floating," he said. "Our house is completely surrounded by the ocean everywhere, I feel our house could go at any time … We already have a foot of water in our garage and the neighbor's house is completely flooded."
"It's hard for me to look," he said. & # 39; Each angle I look at, I'm surrounded by the ocean & # 39;
In a Facebook post, Rivera explained that she and her husband had lagged behind because they expected the impact to look more like Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and because they feared looters would storm their home.
& # 39; Is it scary? Yes, I cried, bet, I said what the hell we were thinking, yes! But here we are! she wrote.