It's here -- Floyd charges ashore, flooding Carolina coasts

Thursday, September 16th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- Hurricane Floyd roared ashore today near
Cape Fear with 110 mph wind, then quickly weakened after flooding
the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia with more than a foot of
rain and chasing tens of thousands of people into shelters.

By 5 p.m., as the center of the storm was about 10 miles south
of Atlantic City, N.J., it was downgraded to a tropical storm again
as sustained winds fell to 65 mph.

Some 1.4 million utility customers from South Carolina to New
Jersey lost power, and 125,000 still had no power today in Florida.
Flooding and power failures combined to shut down Portsmouth, Va.'s
water supply system, which serves 110,000 customers.

Schools were closed today for more than 2 million youngsters.

At least seven deaths were blamed on Floyd.

"I've never been in nothing like this before," said Norma
Childers, 62, a retired Rustburg, Va., nurse who came to North
Carolina on vacation and was in a Wilmington motel when it lost
power this morning.

The storm was traveling faster as it moved across land, with
late afternoon speed of 30 mph. Winds of 65 mph extended about 200
miles from the center, toward the east.

However, since Floyd struck the coast around 3 a.m., the top
sustained wind fell quickly, down to about 75 mph, and by late
afternoon to 65 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The
minimum wind speed for a storm to be called a hurricane is 74 mph.

After crossing land in eastern North Carolina and the
southeastern corner of Virginia, Floyd's dash along the coast was
expected to take it past Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, then
into New York's Long Island early Friday. Disaster preparations
were under way in New York City, Massachusetts' Cape Cod and along
the coast of Maine.

Hurricane warnings were posted as far north as Plymouth, Mass.
Public schools were closed in Washington, Baltimore, all of New
Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City. New Jersey and New York
City each have 1 million students.

President Clinton declared a major disaster today in North
Carolina, and released $528 million to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to help hurricane victims.

The wind set a Ferris wheel spinning on its own at Ocean City,
Md., and overturned an empty truck on the high Chesapeake Bay
Bridge. Virginia closed the 18-mile-long Chesapeake Bay
Bridge-Tunnel, and New York City shut down the exposed upper deck
of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Authorities had urged more than 2.6 million people along the
southern Atlantic coast to clear out of Floyd's path -- the biggest
evacuation in U.S. history -- and more people were urged to evacuate
today in parts of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Long Island.

New York City sent nonessential municipal employees home early
and urged businesses to do the same because of the possibility of
widespread mass transit outages during the rush hour.

However, evacuation orders were lifted today for all of the
South Carolina coast, and thousands of evacuees crowded Georgia
highways as they headed home.

In the Wilmington area, a runaway sailboat jammed the drawbridge
linking the city to Wrightsville Beach, closing the only link to
the barrier island, and a church steeple was toppled in Beaufort.

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, already punished by Hurricane
Dennis earlier this month, Floyd blew the roofs off two motels in
Nags Head.

In Duplin County, a hog farm waste lagoon ruptured and spilled
about 2 million gallons of waste, threatening to pollute a creek
state environmental officials said.

Six twisters damaged homes and churches in North Carolina, but
no injuries were reported.

"It was an exciting night," Calvin McGowan said today as he as
he checked his 34-foot fishing boat, the Monitor. In 1996,
Hurricane Fran threw the boat several hundred yards into a
neighbor's yard.

The heavy rain appeared to have caused more problems than the

"We've got the worst flooding we've ever had in a storm,"
North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt said today.

Areas of the North Carolina coast and the Myrtle Beach area of
South Carolina had gotten up to 16 inches of rain, and a foot fell
on Virginia's Tidewater region. Wilmington got 13 inches before the
rain stopped.

Four of the deaths were in North Carolina, and one storm-related
death was reported in South Carolina and one in Virginia. In
addition, one person was presumed dead in the Bahamas.

While the storm delivered only a glancing blow to Florida on
Wednesday, it destroyed about 100 feet of the century-old Daytona
Beach pier and shear off the end of piers at Jacksonville Beach and
Flagler Beach.

In the Bahamas, Floyd had smashed hundreds of homes and knocked
out utilities. One entire village was swept out to sea but all the
residents had been evacuated before the hurricane struck.

Several of the small Bahamian islands had extreme damage,
officials said, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent ships and aircraft to
survey the damage and deliver emergency supplies.

Hundreds of airline flights had been canceled along the East
Coast. Amtrak suspended all train service south of Washington and
didn't expected to restore service until Friday at the earliest.