This combination of photos shows the Cape Fear River on Sept. 16, 2018, left, and on Sept. 19, 2018, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Fayetteville, N.C. (AP Photos/David Goldman)

The Latest On Hurricane Florence: 2 Dead After Van Swept Away

September 19, 2018 - 12:42 pm
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Florence (all times local):

12:30 p.m.

The Department of Public Safety says all of Interstate 95 in South Carolina is now open.

A 9-mile (14-kilometer) stretch of the highway northbound had been closed because of flooding due to former Hurricane Florence. 

The department tweeted about the reopening on Wednesday.

The section reopening is from mile marker 181 to 190. 

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11:55 a.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says his office is performing an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the drownings of two women in a sheriff's office van who were being brought to a mental health facility.

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson says in a statement Wednesday that he's also cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to learn exactly what happened Tuesday night in Marion County.

Thompson identified the women as 45-year-old Windy Newton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green. Earlier, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson had Newton identified with a different last name.

Dive crews were still working at the scene around noon Wednesday to recover the van, which officials say was swept off a rain-soaked road at around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Two deputies were rescued from the top of the van, and Horry County officials say they tried to get the women out.

The incident happened near the Little Pee Dee River, which is one of the bodies of water officials are monitoring for intense flooding from Florence.

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11:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that the remnants of Hurricane Florence spawned a total of six tornadoes in Virginia earlier this week.

Five of the tornadoes on Monday were spread across the Richmond area. A sixth tornado hit Mecklenburg County, near the North Carolina border, the same day.

News outlets report that teams from the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, surveyed damage from the storms Tuesday and confirmed the number at six.

The strongest tornado leveled a flooring company in Chesterfield, killing a man who worked there. That storm was categorized as an EF2 tornado, with winds of 120 miles (193 kilometers) per hour.

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11:30 a.m.

The U.S. Military says more than 12,000 troops are supporting federal, state and local response efforts in areas affected by former Hurricane Florence.

U.S. Northern Command said in a news release late Tuesday that about 5,600 personnel are active-duty and reserve forces. Another 6,800 are National Guard.

They've been using high-water vehicles and other equipment to rescue dozens of people. They've also evacuated hundreds of people from homes and buildings.

U.S. Northern Command said the troops will stay until they're no longer needed.

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11:30 a.m.

The mayor of Nichols, South Carolina, says his tiny town is underwater again.

Mayor Lawson Battle said Wednesday morning the water is about as high as it was two years ago during Hurricane Matthew, when 90 percent of the buildings in the town of 350 were flooded.

The Little Pee Dee and the Lumber rivers flow past either side of town before converging about 3 miles (5 kilometers) downstream.

Battle says as far as he knows, everyone evacuated the town as the water first started to make its way in on Monday.

The National Weather Service says the Lumber River rose 4 feet (1.2 meters) in 24 hours and was still rising Wednesday morning. The Little Pee Dee River rose nearly 3 feet (1 meter) over the same time.

No official forecast has been given on when the rivers might crest.

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11:20 a.m.

North Carolina officials say a body has been found in a trailer near the flooding Cape Fear River.

Cumberland County Sheriff's Office says search-and-rescue teams responded late Tuesday to a report of a body just south of Fayetteville.

The sheriff's office told the Fayetteville Observer the teams weren't able to retrieve the body because the trailer was surrounded by water.

But sheriff's spokesman Lt. Sean Swain told The Associated Press that authorities have not confirmed if the man drowned due to flooding from former Hurricane Florence, or if he died of other causes.

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11:20 a.m.

Two mental health patients referred to by officials as "detainees" who drowned in the back of a sheriff's department transport van in South Carolina have no arrest records in the state.

That's according to documents obtained from the State Law Enforcement Division concerning 45-year-old Windy Wenton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green.

Horry County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brooke Holden says the pair were in a sheriff's office transport van Tuesday night when it was swept off a rain-soaked road.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson tells The Associated Press two deputies were transporting the women between Nichols and Mullins night. The deputies were rescued from the top of the van, and Horry County officials say they tried to get the women out.

The patients' bodies were being recovered Wednesday morning.

The incident happened near the Little Pee Dee River, which is one of the bodies of water officials are monitoring for intense flooding from Florence.

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11 a.m.

The Department of Public Safety says all of Interstate 95 in South Carolina is now open

A 9-mile (14-kilometer) stretch of the highway northbound had been closed because of flooding due to former Hurricane Florence.

The section reopening is from mile marker 181 to 190.

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9:45 a.m.

State officials in North Carolina now say 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs have been killed in flooding from Florence. The former hurricane swamped dozens of farm buildings where the animals were being raised for market.

Officials previously had estimated that about 1.7 million chickens had drowned and that the number of potential hog deaths was unknown.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture issued the mortality totals as major flooding continues in the state due to the storm's drenching rains.

Sixteen North Carolina rivers were at major flood stage Tuesday, with an additional three forecast to peak by Thursday.

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8:35 a.m.

Officials have identified the two mental health patients who drowned when a van they were riding in was swept away in South Carolina flood waters.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson tells The Associated Press that 45-year-old Windy Wenton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green were being transported by a Horry County Sheriff's Office van between Nichols and Mullins on Tuesday night when the van was swept away by rising waters. Two deputies were rescued from the top of the van, and Horry County officials say they tried to get the women out.

Richardson says the patients' bodies were being recovered Wednesday morning.

Richardson says the incident happened near the Little Pee Dee River, which is one of the bodies of water officials are monitoring for intense flooding following Florence.

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11 p.m.

Authorities confirm two detainees drowned when a van was swept away in rising flood waters in South Carolina.

Horry County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Brooke Holden says a sheriff's office van was carrying two detainees and two deputies from Conway to Darlington on Tuesday night when it was overtaken by flood waters. Officials say the van was traveling near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water officials in South Carolina are watching closely as water continues to poor into the state from upriver in North Carolina following the heavy rains of Florence.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to AP earlier Tuesday that two women died in the incident. Their names have not been released.

Holden says the deputies tried to get the detainees out but couldn't open the doors. High-water rescue teams plucked the deputies from the top of the van.

The incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Forecasters predict some rivers in the northeastern area of the state might not reach their highest levels until later this week or next week.