RIVER BEND, the United States, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- "I've lived here for 23 years and the water levels in this hurricane were higher than I've ever seen before," John Kirkland, mayor of River Bend, North Carolina, told Xinhua after Hurricane Florence made landfall nearby.
Standing in the town hall building in the center of the town, Kirkland said that half of his town is located in a flood plain and has been inundated by the rising water level.
On one side of the town hall building lies a children's playground, with only the upper half of slides and swings visible above the water.
The town, placed among a network of waterways with easy access to the ocean, had attracted many who enjoy boating on the calm waters of Pamlico Sound, the largest lagoon on the U.S. east coast. But during hurricane season, this blessing turns into a curse, as the snaking rivers that hug the town with a population of 3,100 suddenly transformed into muddy pipes that flooded the low lying part of the town.
Kirkland said his home is also among the dozens of houses in the flood plain and has yet to return to his home since the hurricane hit. He has resorted to staying at the town's fire department for safety.
Driving through the drier roads of River Bend, fallen tree branches scattered the neatly managed lawns, with one as thick as a car wheel ripped from its roots to smash on top of a house.
Many wooden power poles were also knocked down by the strong wind, leaving bare cables lying on ground, spooking locals.
Kirkland told Xinhua that the worst times came on Friday morning, and although the wind died down somewhat throughout the day, heavy rain persisted.
"About 40 percent of (the residents in) the town left before the hurricane, and among those left some are in need of rescue, which we have started," Kirkland said, lamenting that too many people shrugged off hurricane warnings to have put themselves in dangerous positions.
"We tried to tell them; it's amazing people don't use common sense," he said.
With the worst part was over, Kirkland hoped that power can be soon restored to his town, but predicted it may take longer than a week.
"In past hurricanes, which were not as bad, it usually took three to four days to get the power back up. It may be longer this time," he said, indicating that the town hall is the only building in town with power.
The predicament of River Bend was not unique along the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina, which were on the direct path of Florence.
During a drive through the coastal region of North Carolina, Xinhua saw roads covered with leaves and branches that were blown off trees, large swaths of farmland submerged under water and gas station roofs that were tipped over.
Florence has caused at least 13 deaths in the Carolinas so far, with over 1 million households and businesses without power, nine airports closed and over 2,500 flights canceled through Sunday.
Despite slowing down after making landfall early Friday, U.S. weather forecasters are predicting prolonged rainfall and storm surges in the region, urging local residents to exercise caution.