The Latest: Warships ready to help with Florence response

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Depression Florence (all times local):
10 a.m.Two U.S. Navy warships carrying helicopters and rescue equipment are in position off the East Coast to help with the response to hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement Monday that the amphibious attack assault ship USS Kearsarge and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington are available to provide support if it’s requested by civilian officials.

The ships are ready deploy hundreds of Marines and sailors as well as Osprey aircraft, helicopters, landing boats, ground vehicles and generators. The sailors and Marines are capable of conducting search-and-rescue missions as well as clearing debris.

Military officials said the USNS Comfort hospital ship has not been deployed because communities surrounding the disaster area are able to provide adequate medical services.

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10 a.m.

President Donald Trump has approved federal funding to aid recovery efforts in areas of South Carolina affected by Florence.

In a news release Monday, the White House said Trump had declared that a major disaster exists in the state. He ordered that federal aid be used “to supplement state, tribal and local” recovery efforts in the state.

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9:30 a.m.

The devastating flooding in North Carolina from Florence has raised concerns about whether some dams will be able to hold up under the strain.

According to data obtained by The Associated Press, the state has 1,445 dams rated high hazard. That’s out of a total of about 5,700 dams that range from large federal ones to small privately owned ones.

A high hazard classification means a failure could be likely to cause the loss of one or more human lives.

The data show that of the state’s high-hazard dams, 185 had conditions of poor or unsatisfactory during recent inspections.

The data comes from the National Inventory of Dams.

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9:30 a.m.

Florence has left about 500,000 customers without power, most of them in North Carolina.

About 467,000 customers were without service in North Carolina, including in the Wilmington area, which is surrounded by floodwaters and has been cut off.

About 17,000 customers were without service in South Carolina, mostly in northeastern South Carolina near the North Carolina state line.

About 12,000 customers were without service in Virginia. Most of those were the southwestern part of the state.

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9:30 a.m.

Dozens of roads are closed in the western parts of Virginia as Florence circles its way across the state.

State transportation officials said early Monday that roads are blocked by downed trees or covered with standing water.

Appalachian Power reported more than 7,000 Virginia customers were without power early Tuesday.

Florence brought heavy rains to parts of Virginia late Sunday and early Monday as the storm trekked north. Virginia officials have warned residents to brace for significant rainfall and possible flash flooding in the southwest and southern part of the state. The city of Roanoke asked residents who live in flood plains to voluntarily evacuate.

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9:30 a.m.

Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin assessing the impact of Tropical Storm Florence.

Park officials said in a statement Monday that areas of the park that straddle Tennessee and North Carolina will be opened to the public once they are deemed safe. Facilities and roads that were closed in anticipation of the storm remained closed early Monday.

Other roads and facilities have remained open, including the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers.

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8:20 a.m.

Authorities are searching for a 1-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters in North Carolina after the boy’s mother lost her grip on him.

Union County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Underwood said a woman and her child were on their way to visit relatives when she drove past some barricades on highway 218 in northern Union County. The woman later told authorities someone had pushed the barricades to the side a little, making her think it was OK to go through.

The woman’s car was swept off the road by the floodwaters, pinning it against a group of trees. She was able to free 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch from his car seat and escape. But the waters were deep, and Underwood said the woman lost her grip and her son was swept away.

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6:20 a.m.

A train has derailed in North Carolina, but it’s not clear whether it was storm-related.

WBTV reports that the CSX train derailed Sunday evening in Anson County, east of the state’s largest city of Charlotte.

The station says the derailment led to at least one road closure.

The station cites CSX officials as saying that the derailment involved several cars on a train headed to Hamlet, North Carolina.

Officials have reported flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence in Union County, located between Charlotte and Anson County.

They did not say whether there were any injuries or what the train was carrying.

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1 a.m.

With Wilmington cut off from the rest of North Carolina by still-rising floodwaters from Florence, officials plan to airlift food and water to a city of nearly 120,000 people as rescuers elsewhere pull inland residents from homes threatened by swollen rivers.

The spreading disaster claimed additional lives Sunday, with at least 17 people confirmed dead, and the nation’s top emergency official said other states were in the path this week.

Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says not only to expect more impacts in North Carolina, but also “you are about to see a lot of damage going through West Virginia, all the way up to Ohio as the system exits out.”

In Wilmington, the state’s eighth-largest city, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants on Sunday for basic necessities like water. Police guarded the door of one store, and only 10 people were allowed inside at a time.