Emergency workers rushed into beleaguered cities in the Carolinas on Monday as residents struggled with the aftermath of a storm that damaged tens of thousands of homes, drenched the area with record rains and triggered floodwaters that are not expected to recede for days.
Wilmington, a city of about 119,000 residents, was virtually cut off.
Water levels were rising in some places on Monday as the record-breaking rains of the storm — which made landfall as a hurricane and then drenched the region even as it weakened — pushed rivers over their banks. The authorities and volunteers in North and South Carolina carried out additional rescues by air and water, curfews were in effect, and many thousands of people remained out of their homes.
The zipping winds and pounding rains were largely replaced on Monday by a different soundtrack: roaring helicopters that delivered supplies to Wilmington; leaf blowers and chain saws for cleanups in Charlotte; and the soft swirl of the still-rising Cape Fear River as it flowed under the Person Street Bridge and menaced Fayetteville.
“This remains a significant disaster that affects much of our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said on Monday afternoon. “The next few days will be long ones as the flooding continues.”
The authorities have blamed the storm for at least 23 deaths, including that of a 1-year-old boy who slipped out of his mother’s hands near Charlotte after their car became stuck in floodwater on Sunday evening.
Here are the latest developments:
• The authorities planned to deliver supplies to Wilmington, N.C., by air after submerged roads limited access to the city. State officials said one road into the city had opened, but they were not certain that it would remain accessible.
• Evacuation orders are still being issued as rivers rise and dams are tested. The authorities in Hoke County, west of Fayetteville, told residents late Sunday to flee “due to the possible breach of the dam.”
• Parts of several rivers — including the Cape Fear, Little, Neuse and Rocky — are already in “major flood” stage and are rising. Flash-flood watches and warnings are in effect in many North Carolina towns, as well as in parts of South Carolina. Road closings are extensive, including to parts of Interstates 40 and 95.
• The center of the depression was about 240 miles west of Charlottesville, Va., on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters expect the storm to produce “heavy and excessive” rainfall over the next couple of days as it moves northeast toward New England and the Atlantic.
The breathtaking scope of the storm’s might posed substantial challenges for the authorities through much of the Carolinas, but officials were particularly focused on Wilmington. Although some trucks with supplies were able to make it into the marooned city early Monday, the uncertainty of road conditions led the authorities to order helicopters to fly more resources into Wilmington.
The first two drops, expected at midday, were to arrive in a region where residents were only beginning to process the traumas and emotions of the last few days.
Brian Scandalito, 55, disheveled and sodden, emerged from a backyard storage shed, where he said he had ridden out the storm on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Mr. Scandalito said he had moved into the 10-by-10 building, behind an unoccupied brick ranch home with a “for sale” sign, after a maintenance man evicted him from his tent behind a nearby strip mall.
He survived on a packaged luncheon ham and a bag of tortillas. He filled a bottle with tap water from a gas station. And by late Monday morning, he was walking down a partly flooded highway, past fallen pine trees, hoping to catch a ride to a shelter. He was wary of leaving the shed, and he carried his only possession: a transmitter radio that blared storm bulletins.
“I think I’d like to move to Montana,” he said.
Also cut off for a time was a nuclear power plant 30 miles south of Wilmington, which prompted the plant’s operator, Duke Energy, to declare an “unusual event,” the lowest-level emergency tracked by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But workers at the Brunswick nuclear station were able to find a back road in and out of the plant, a commission spokesman, Joey Ledford, said. Regulators said there were no immediate safety concerns at the plant’s two reactors, which Duke shut down ahead of the storm, and no flooding had been reported at the site itself.
The passage of the rain bands — and the emergence of blue skies in the Carolinas — did not mean an end to the storm’s perils. In Latta, S.C., early on Monday, an older man who could not swim found himself in rapidly rising water.
Standing on the roof of his car, he held onto a tree branch as the water rushed at his feet. A search-and-rescue team from Miami spotted the man’s striped shirt and sent a boat into the flood. Just as the water started to cover the roof of the car, the rescue team threw a life jacket around the man’s neck and helped him into their boat.
“He was in disbelief about what was going on,” said Scott Dean, the assistant chief of the Miami Fire Rescue Department, adding that the man was not calling for help when they spotted him despite his imminent danger.
Even as rescue workers, both from the government and volunteer groups, pulled more people from the water, the death toll increased, including 17 fatalities in North Carolina. Outside of Charlotte, officials recovered the body of Kaiden Lee Welch, the 1-year-old who fell out of his mother’s arms on a flooded highway on Sunday night.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that the mother drove around a barrier and into the rushing water, which swept the car off the road and into a tree. The woman managed to free herself and her son, “who was in a car seat, but lost her grip on him in the rushing water,” the sheriff’s office said.
By Monday afternoon, there were blue clouds and sunshine in Fayetteville, and though thousands of residents were still without power, people crowded into restaurants and open-air cafes.
For city and county officials, the relief was the scariest part: The danger was not over.
The Cape Fear River was still rising, and was projected to rise until Tuesday morning. At its highest possible projected level, it would run out of its banks and possibly damage hundreds of homes and businesses.
“Now that the storm is gone and the sun is out some people don’t really understand the impact of the floodwaters,” the Fayetteville mayor, Mitch Colvin, said. “That’s the dangerous part.”
David Zucchino reported from Wilmington, Alan Blinder from Charlotte, N.C., and Tyler Pager from Latta, S.C. Melissa Gomez, Hiroko Tabuchi and Matthew Haag contributed reporting from New York.