Rescue operations are underway for people trapped in floodwaters from Hurricane Florence. The devastating storm has claimed four lives, and left countless others stranded since it made landfall Friday in North Carolina.
“I just moved here a few weeks ago, and first thing that happens is this hurricane,” says Chris Herring, who spoke to PEOPLE from atop an air mattress while awaiting rescue in New Bern. “Now everything I have is destroyed.”
Like others who tell PEOPLE they miscalculated the storm, Herring and his roommates believed they would be able to ride out the storm. Friday morning, they realized too late that they misjudged the danger.
“Water came in, and it ran us all the way up to the attic,” Herring says. There, a tree fell on the roof. “Everybody jumped, and we knew what it was.”
Elsewhere in town, Francine Moore also realized too late that she had to leave her house. By then, her car was flooded.
“Water kept coming,” Moore says. “We had to get upstairs, and now water is covering the whole downstairs and coming up.”
With all her food and water gone, the terrified Moore realized she would not be able to get to the roof when the time came. A boat came by. Moore watched in horror as the rescuers, who did not see her, turned away.
“I leaned out the window and waved a white shirt out the window,” Moore says. “They saw it, and the boat came back.”
Messages posted via Crowdsource Rescue, a neighbor-to-neighbor resource group that aims to supplement overwhelmed 911 resources, contain dire cries for help.
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“Posting on behalf of friend who has not heard from her elderly father since Wednesday afternoon, he did not evacuate and is not answering cell phone,” reads one rescue “ticket” or assignment.
“Veronica is running out of food, water and the flood water is rising fast,” reads another. “She lives in a very small 1 story home and can not move to the roof. Her children are 2, 6, 7 and 9 years old.”
“Docks are breaking up, can’t get to shore,” reads yet another. “Need help getting my friend off a sailboat stranded on a dock. All hands needed!”
The tickets describe people who are elderly, suffer from Alzheimer’s, walk with canes or are perched on upper floors and in attics.
Private rescue operator George Ruiz has been looking all day for stranded people.
“People think they can ride it out, and then it gets to where it’s too late,” says Ruiz, who spent 20 years in the Coast Guard as a rescue boat driver. Ruiz, who runs Geaux Rescue, goes in to get them.
“We’ve done a few hundred so far, but it’s just starting,” says Ruiz, who drove more than four hours from Alabama, cutting down trees in his path, to reach entrapped people.
One rescue was a man in a wheelchair who lived alone. Another …read more