Several Christian charities are helping tens of thousands of residents in the Carolinas who fled their homes to take refuge in shelters as Hurricane Florence made landfall.
Florence has claimed the lives of at least nine people. A mother and her infant were killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, Friday when a tree fell on a home. Two others died in Lenoir County, according to authorities.
As of Saturday afternoon, North Carolina's statewide power outage was at 736,485, according to ABC's affiliate in Raleigh-Durham. Another 170,000 power outages were reported in South Carolina.
Nearly 20,000 people are staying at 150 shelters across North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper's office said Saturday, adding that "The Friday Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill opened this morning as a mass shelter. Joel Coliseum at Wake Forest University also is open as a mass shelter."
Among the charities that transported supplies to Wilmington and Durham, North Carolina, Saturday is Convoy of Hope, whose response teams drove several 18-wheeler trucks to the state to deliver water and other essential supplies to the National Guard and North Carolina Emergency Management officials for distribution.
The nonprofit is also distributing water and other items to shelters in both states, and will be dropping off supplies at churches that are helping residents, Jeff Nene, the national spokesperson for Convoy of Hope, said Friday in an interview with KY3 news station in Springfield, Missouri.
Florence made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Friday morning, and slowly moved over Eastern South Carolina on Saturday, producing severe flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Storm surge has reached 10 feet in some areas, and Swift water rescue teams and other first responders have rescued hundreds of people from New Bern, North Carolina, and flooded areas along the coast are being searched by the Coast Guard.
The Carolinas are expected to suffer severe flooding throughout the weekend, the center said, adding that Florence, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, will dump as much as 40 inches of rain along the coast of Cape Hatteras.
Cooper warned residents to beware of rising floodwaters and urged people not to return home to survey damage. Twice as many roads were closed Saturday as floodwaters rose across the state. And flooding is expected to continue into next week.
The governor stressed that most storm-related deaths occur when people drown in floodwaters, and cautioned residents against attempting to drive through still or moving water on roadways.
"The flood danger from this storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall just over 24 hours ago," Cooper said at a news conference Saturday. "More people now face imminent threat than when the storm was offshore. I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising. If you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life."
In South Carolina, the first reported death occurred Friday night, WSJ reported, "when a 61-year-old woman driving on a highway near Union crashed into a toppled tree."
Cooper said Saturday that waters will rise even in regions that aren't typically affected by floods. "Many people who think that the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat," he added.
Other faith-based groups that are providing relief include Baptists on Mission, the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and Samaritan's Purse, among others.
Along with financial contributions, Samaritan's Purse is also accepting applications from volunteers who want to donate their time as a disaster response team member to help clear out debris and rebuild homes after damage assessments have been completed.