Authorities recover body of 1-year-old swept away by Florence floods

<p>Catastrophic flooding from Florence spreads across the Carolinas with one city virtually cut off by the deluge and the vast storm system now over several states.</p>

News 12 Staff

Sep 17, 2018, 10:10 AM

Updated 2,137 days ago

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina sheriff's office says it has recovered the body of a 1-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters after his mother lost her grip on him.
The Union County Sheriff's Office identified the boy on its Facebook page Monday as Kaiden Lee-Welch.
Spokesman Tony Underwood said a woman and her child were on their way to visit relatives when she drove past some barricades on N.C. 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
 
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.
About 70 miles (115 kilometers) away from the coast, residents near the Lumber River stepped from their homes directly into boats floating in their front yards; river forecasts showed the scene could be repeated in towns as far as 250 miles inland as waters rise for days.
Downgraded to a tropical depression, Florence was still massive. Radar showed parts of the sprawling storm over six states, with North and South Carolina in the bull's-eye.
Meanwhile, half way around the world, Typhoon Mangkhut barreled into southern China on Sunday after lashing the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left dozens dead. More than 2.4 million people were evacuated from China's southern Guangdong province ahead of the massive typhoon, the strongest to hit the region in nearly two decades.
In North Carolina, fears of what could be the worst flooding in the state's history led officials to order tens of thousands to evacuate, though it wasn't clear how many had fled or even could.
President Donald Trump said federal emergency workers, first responders and law enforcement officials were "working really hard." As the storm "begins to finally recede, they will kick into an even higher gear. Very Professional!" he declared in a tweet.
The storm's death toll climbed to 17 when authorities said a 3-month-old child was killed when a tree fell on a mobile home in North Carolina. Three people died in weather-related traffic accidents, officials said.
Victor Merlos was overjoyed to find a store open for business in Wilmington since he had about 20 relatives staying at his apartment, which still had power. He spent more than $500 on cereal, eggs, soft drinks and other necessities, plus beer.
"I have everything I need for my whole family," said Merlos. Nearby, a Waffle House restaurant limited breakfast customers to one biscuit and one drink, all take-out, with the price of $2 per item.
Kenneth Campbell had donned waterproof waders intending to check out his home in Lumberton , but he didn't bother when he saw the Coast Guard and murky waters in his neighborhood.
"I'm not going to waste my time. I already know," he said.
As rivers swelled, state regulators and environmental groups were monitoring the threat from gigantic hog and poultry farms located in low-lying, flood-prone areas.
The industrial-scale farms contain vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters. In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in floodwaters.
Some stream gauges used to monitor river levels failed when they became submerged, but others showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to at or near record levels. The Defense Department said about 13,500 military personnel were assigned to help relief efforts.
Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the North Carolina coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.
Near the flooded-out town of New Bern , where about 455 people had to be rescued from the swirling flood waters, water completely surrounded churches, businesses and homes. In the neighboring town of Trenton, downtown streets were turned to creeks full of brown water.
The rain was unrelenting in Cheraw, a town of about 6,000 people in northeastern South Carolina. Streets were flooded and Police Chief Keith Thomas warned people not to drive, but the local food and gas store had customers.
"As you can tell, they're not listening to me," he said.
___
Associated Press writers Alex Derosier in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Jonathan Drew in Wilmington, North Carolina; Allen G. Breed and Emery P. Dalesio in New Bern, North Carolina; Denise Lavoie and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; Gary Robertson and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina; Meg Kinnard and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Russ Bynum in Cheraw, South Carolina; Seth Borenstein and Michael Biesecker in Washington; Lolita C. Baldor at the Pentagon; Jennifer Kay in Miami; and Jay Reeves in Atlanta contributed to this report.
___
For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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