North Carolina Flooding: Hurricane Matthew Water-Swollen Rivers Set To Rise

Image: An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina
An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, Oct. 10.CHRIS KEANE / Reuters

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By F. Brinley Bruton and Alex Johnson

Flooding continued to threaten parts of North Carolina on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew's deadly after-effects swelled rivers and forced tens of thousands to be evacuated.

"Record flooding is slowly moving down river on Nuese and Tar rivers," NBC meteorologist Bill Karins said. "Crests will occur in the next two days, but even then it will be well into the weekend before these rivers show significant water level drops."

The Tar and Neuse are in the state's northeastern corner and run into Pamlico Sound.

The rising waters were being acutely felt in Greenville, where authorities had ordered evacuations for about one-tenth of its 90,000 people. The Tar was expected to crest later in the day and officials warned it would overwhelm every bridge in the county, The Associated Press reported.

Matthew's death toll in the U.S. has climbed to 38, half of them in North Carolina. Tens of thousands of people, some of them as much as 125 miles inland, have been warned to move to higher ground since the hurricane drenched the state.

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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday the death toll in his state has jumped overnight from 17 to 19.

"I cannot emphasize enough to stay away from the water. It will kill you," McCrory said.

Related: Why We Should Pay More Attention to Flood-Proofing America

More than 110,000 customers in North Carolinastill were without power Wednesday, the state's major electric utilities reported. President Barack Obama declared a new state of emergency for 31 counties in the eastern half of the state.

Mist rises off the water in Lumberton, North Carolina on Tuesday.CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters

Along the bloated Lumber River in Lumberton, Ada Page told the AP she had spent two nights sleeping in a hard plastic folding chair at a shelter. People were using portable toilets outside, she said.

"I left at home all my clothes, everything. The only thing I have is this child and what I was driving," said age, who was with the 8-year-old granddaughter.

Lumberton is around 120 miles southeast of Charlotte.

The Weather Channel's Kevin Roth warned that the situation wasn't set to improve for days.

"The crest is only going to slowly work its way to the coast," he said, adding that some rivers rivers would only work back to pre-flood state early next week.

Related: Deadly Flooding Threat Grows in North Carolina

Local officials and meteorologists warned residents to not be fooled by the ongoing sunny weather.

"You can have all the rain stop — the storm's gone, it's beautiful and sunny outside — but those rivers, they just keep on swelling, and they keep on rising," said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, on Tuesday.

The full extent of the damage in North Carolina was unclear, but it appeared that thousands of homes were damaged. Many likened Matthew to Hurricane Floyd, which did $3 billion in damage and destroyed 7,000 homes in North Carolina as it skirted the state's coast in 1999.

The Associated Press contributed.