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Hurricane Matthew death toll in North Carolina rises to 26 people

James Estep sits on a step along Shine Street in Kinston as flood water from the rain of Hurricane Matthew surrounds Faith Tabernacle Holy Church on Friday. The Neuse River is expected to remain at major flood levels for weeks.
James Estep sits on a step along Shine Street in Kinston as flood water from the rain of Hurricane Matthew surrounds Faith Tabernacle Holy Church on Friday. The Neuse River is expected to remain at major flood levels for weeks. AP

North Carolina’s death toll from Hurricane Matthew rose to 26 on Saturday with two more drowning victims, Gov. Pat McCrory said.

A 53-year-old man in Cumberland County and a 47-year-old woman in Wayne County died when their vehicles encountered flooding, the governor said.

“Hurricane Matthew continues its destructive path through North Carolina” 12 days after the storm, McCrory said at a media briefing on Saturday morning. “And yet, we’re seeing courage, we’re seeing incredible strength by our citizens and we’re seeing recovery. But there are still many, many difficult days ahead for North Carolina and many of our citizens being impacted by this incredible hurricane.”

McCrory said he had “one of the most emotional days of my life” visiting flood-ravaged communities.

Emergency crews have made 2,333 Matthew-related water rescues, and McCrory said two healthy babies were successfully delivered in a mobile hospital unit. He thanked members of Med 1 Mobile Hospital of Charlotte for their assistance in the deliveries. Med 1 is at Southeastern Medical Center in Lumberton to respond to storm-related emergencies.

At least 660 roads remain closed in central and eastern North Carolina due to damage or flooding, the governor said. He reminded drivers not to rely on GPS devices for road closure and detour information but to call 5-1-1, download the ReadyNC app or visit ReadyNC.org.

The Lumbee River is receding throughout Robeson County but is not expected to drop below major flood stage until Monday afternoon, McCrory said. The Neuse River in Goldsboro, which reached record levels the past week, is expected to drop below major flood stage on Sunday evening.

The Neuse River in Kinston also reached record high levels and is not expected to drop below major flood stage until late Wednesday. The Tar River was expected to drop below major flood stage in Tarboro on Saturday night, but not to below major flood stage in Greenville until Tuesday morning.

The number of statewide power outages has dropped to 13,366 from a peak of over 800,000 last Sunday. About 12,000 of the outages are in Robeson County.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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