N.C. National Guard helicopter rescue crews are in South Carolina to help rescue drivers and residents trapped by flood waters.
About 20 Guard troops and 10 civilian paramedics and firefighters are working under the S.C. National Guard at the request of Gov. Nikki Haley. The Helo Aquatic Rescue Teams are based in Salisbury and left for South Carolina on Sunday night.
“Given North Carolina’s experience with severe flooding, we’re keenly aware of the critical need for experienced search and rescue teams,” N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said in a news release. “We will do all we can to help our southern neighbors as they face unprecedented flooding.”
Gov. Pat McCrory has ordered about 75 National Guard soldiers to active duty to respond to flooding in both states. On Sunday, they performed three rescues in Pamlico County and one in Hyde County, according to Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a Guard spokesman.
In Pamlico’s Hobucken community, troops rescued three adults from a flooded home. They pulled drivers from stalled vehicles on N.C. 55 in the Merritt community. And they rescued a driver who hydroplaned and landed in floodwaters off Bay City Road in Bayboro.
Near Swan Quarter in Hyde County, soldiers pulled a driver from a car that was stuck in an eight-foot-deep canal, DeVivo said.
“We’re no strangers to disasters on the coast,” DeVivo said. “We’ve learned a lot since (Hurricane) Katrina – there’s a lot of similarities to this flood, a lot of people that can’t move.”
In addition to the National Guard, Triangle-area volunteer groups are also gearing up to help flood victims.
Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator for the N.C. Baptist Men, said his group will likely help with relief efforts in South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina. Volunteer teams haven’t rolled out yet.
“We’re still waiting to assess the situation,” Moss said Monday. “We stand by ready to help.”
The American Red Cross branch based in Raleigh initially focused its relief efforts in eastern North Carolina, staffing shelters in Cumberland, Brunswick and New Hanover counties over the weekend. Now the volunteers are shifting their focus to South Carolina, regional director Barry Porter said.
“As the storms have a waning impact in North Carolina, we’re being asked to deploy volunteers,” Porter said. “We know the significant damage is in the South Carolina area.”
They’ll be joining 500 Red Cross volunteers already staffing 35 shelters across South Carolina.
North Carolina emergency management officials say they’ll provide more assistance to the other Carolina this week if requested. The two states have an agreement to help each other with disaster response; requests go through the governor’s office in each state.
“With the traumatic flooding occurring in South Carolina, I’ve directed North Carolina’s Emergency Management officials to provide as much logistical support as they need from us,” McCrory said in a news release.
Driving south or to the coast? Expect roadblccks
Drivers heading south into South Carolina can expect major road closures due to flooding in the state.
A 74-mile stretch of Interstate 95 was still closed late Monday between I-20 in Florence and I-26 near Santee. Traffic headed up and down the East Coast is being sent on a 140-mile detour through Columbia.
I-26 is also closed where it crosses the Saluda River near Columbia.
In North Carolina, N.C. 12 remained closed in three locations: Kitty Hawk between Lillian Street and White Avenue; between the town of Atlantic and the Cedar Island ferry; and on the north end of Ocracoke Island. The N.C. Department of Transportation said it expects to reopen all three sections by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Dozens of secondary roads in Eastern North Carolina were also flooded and closed Monday.
How to help
Relief groups are collecting donations to help flood victims in South Carolina.
Donate to the Salvation Army by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY, online at donate.salvationarmyusa.org/disaster/East-Coast-Floods-Disaster-Relief, or by mail at P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301.
Donate to the American Red Cross by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS, online at redcross.org/donate or by mail at American Red Cross of Lowcountry SC, 2424 City Hall Lane, North Charleston, S.C. 29406.
Both groups allow donors to earmark their contribution for flood relief.