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Hurricane Matthew: North Carolina rivers expected to stay above flood stage

(CNN) — Hurricane Matthew has passed. But its lasting imprint will long be felt in US communities where flooding rivers delivered a ferocious one-two punch.

At least 30 US deaths have been blamed on Matthew. North Carolina saw 20 residents die as major rivers hovered above flood stage in the storm’s aftermath. Hundreds more lost their lives in the Caribbean.

Images and video — such as this bird’s-eye drone footage of the devastation — offer a stark portrait of Matthew’s lingering aftereffects in North Carolina. Many had not witnessed such destruction since Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Downtown streets become flowing streams

The city of Lumberton in Robeson County, about 65 miles northwest of Wilmington, saw the worst of it.

The surging Lumber River cut a glistening path across Interstate 95, shutting down a section of the main highway along the East Coast.

In Lumberton, downtown streets became flowing streams, passable only by small vessels.

Boats and helicopters plucked hundreds of stranded residents from homes and rooftops.

About 3,000 people in Robeson County sought refuge in shelters.

Homes, restaurants, businesses and even water treatment plants were damaged or lost in the deluge.

Reeling in catfish from the porch

Some tried to make the best of hard times.

In the town of Windsor, in North Carolina’s Inner Banks region, members of the Jinnette family reeled in catfish from the front porch.

But the rest of Windsor was surrounded by muddy water.

In many places, such as Rocky Mount, homes became islands amid a sea of floodwater.

Small boats and canoes were the only way to get around water-logged communities such as Fair Bluff, where traffic signs jutted out from the murky water.

Threat is not over

The federal government has declared disasters in 34 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, state officials said Wednesday night. The declaration allows federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts.

The threat is far from over.

In Pitt County, an estimated 10,000 residents have been evacuated, with 1,000 of them needing assistance from emergency services.

The Tar River is forecast to crest Friday at 25.2 feet, 12 feet over flood stage.

Some North Carolina fatalities involved people who drowned after driving onto flooded roads. Officials urge motorists not to drive through high water. The tops of submerged cars rose from the water like buoys.

Stranded souls plucked to safety

Many residents fled homes with whatever they could take.

Other were not so fortunate. For days rescue crews worked to pluck the stranded to safety.

Responders pulled people from submerged homes, placed them in rafts or choppers and whisked them to safe and dry ground. Some pets stayed behind.