NC flooding from Fred leaves 2 dead, 20 missing as Grace makes landfall in Mexico
Two people died and several others remained unaccounted for on Thursday after remnants of Tropical Storm Fred swept through North Carolina this week. Meanwhile, Hurricane Grace made landfall on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and forecasters were eyeing a third storm sending dangerous waves onto East Coast beaches.
North Carolina officials announced the two deaths in an update Thursday morning and said 20 people still remained unaccounted for in Haywood County, an area located just west of Asheville. Dozens of others were rescued from flooded areas after downpours on Tuesday washed out bridges and swamped homes.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday declared a state of emergency. More than 200 people searched flooded areas along the Pigeon River. At least 10 bridges were damaged or destroyed in the Cruso community, where engineering teams worked to construct temporary bridges to allow people in and out of their homes.
"Our search crews are actively working, searching for more victims and more survivors," Travis Donaldson, emergency services director for Haywood County, said at a news conference.
Unconfirmed tornados unleashed by the stormy weather already caused damage in places in Georgia and North Carolina on Tuesday as Fred moved north, well inland from the coastal areas that usually bear the brunt of tropical weather. One death was reported in Florida, where authorities said a driver hydroplaned and flipped into a ditch near Panama City.
Fred — now a post-tropical cyclone — moved farther into the northeast Thursday, closing roads and flooding basements in some parts of upstate New York. Forecasters warned that more flooding was possible.
As much as 4 inches of rain fell in parts of western and central New York, swelling creeks and rivers. About 10 families evacuated their homes in the rural town of Western in central New York as waters rose.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Grace struck Mexico's Caribbean coast just south of the ancient Mayan temples of Tulum on Thursday, tearing the roofs off some homes, knocking out power to thousands and keeping tourists off white sand beaches as it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula.
The push across land weakened the storm, but by evening it was centered back over water — the Gulf of Mexico — and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was again regaining strength as it headed for a collision with the Mexican mainland late Friday or early Saturday.
The Category 1 storm had already soaked earthquake-damaged Haiti, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands en route to a direct hit on the Riviera Maya, the heart of Mexico's tourism industry. Grace's center struck just south of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kmh), according to the Hurricane Center.
As it moved over land, Grace weakened to a tropical storm Thursday morning with 65 mph sustained winds. It was moving west across the peninsula at 18 mph and was located about 85 miles west of Tulum.
Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said the storm had knocked out power to some 84,000 customers in Cancun and 65,000 in Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventura and Tulum.
Eyes were also on Tropical Storm Henri, which was moving toward the U.S. coast on Thursday. Forecasters said it was likely to become a hurricane offshore late Friday that will likely take it parallel to the East Coast. Its center was forecast to approach southern New England by Monday.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.