Under blue skies and suddenly autumn-like temperatures, North Carolina on Friday began returning to normal after Tropical Storm Michael headed into the Atlantic as quickly as it had arrived on Thursday.
But across the state crews are untangling hundreds of roads blocked by downed trees and power lines and flooding, and warning beach visitors to stay out of the ocean because of heavy surf and strong riptides.
“Tropical Storm Michael drifted away from North Carolina last night but it left behind a long track of damage,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a morning briefing with key state officials on Friday. “Today our state starts recovering from yet another storm.”
Cooper announced two more storm-related deaths from Tropical Storm Michael were confirmed Friday in McDowell County. A man and a woman died after their car hit a large tree that had fallen across a road in Marion. That brings the North Carolina death toll from Michael to three. A man also died Thursday on U.S. 64 in Iredell County when a large oak tree toppled onto his car, The Charlotte Observer reported.
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The governor said evacuations were required in a number of counties in the foothills and mountains, including Guilford, Forsyth, Henderson, Iredell and McDowell.
Nearly 100 people were rescued from flash flooding, Cooper said. He added that some rivers are rising, including the Dan and Yadkin.
State Highway Patrol Commander Glenn McNeill said troopers handled more than 1,000 traffic collisions between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. McNeill said driving conditions in many places remain hazardous. He asked drivers in areas without functioning traffic signals to treat all intersections as four-way stops.
Fallen debris had closed 358 roads statewide by Friday morning, Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said, including 32 primary routes. Crews worked overnight and will continue all day Friday to clear as many roads as possible, he said.
“I believe we will make substantial progress today,” Trogdon said.
The governor said it wasn’t yet known if damage caused by the tropical storm will qualify the state for federal disaster relief in addition to Hurricane Florence funding. He estimates that Florence caused nearly $13 billion in damage to North Carolina.
Earlier this week, Cooper presented a 77-page booklet of recommendations on how to pay for $1.5 billion in relief over an unspecified number of years. Cooper has asked the legislature to approve about $750 million as the first installment when it meets in a special disaster recovery session on Monday.
On Friday he said his administration has gone over the recommendations in detail with legislative leaders.
“We feel positive that they believe there are many good ideas in our proposal,” Cooper said. “We just hope that it will be significant enough to make a real difference.”