President Donald Trump visited North Carolina and South Carolina Wednesday to get a firsthand look at the damage of Hurricane Florence.
The president paid a visit to a church in New Bern, North Carolina, that's serving as an aid distribution center for victims. As a gesture of comfort and encouragement, Trump handed out hot meals to residents greatly impacted by the hurricane.
"How's the house?" the president was heard asking one storm survivor. "You take care of yourself."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018
On Wednesday morning, he took the time to thank and meet with first responders and volunteer rescue workers in New Bern who saved more than 4,000 people from floodwaters across the state.
"What they've done to save precious lives of our citizens has been nothing short of incredible," President Trump said.
"In moments of despair, we witnessed the true character of the American people. So true," he continued. "Citizens all across our country rallied together to rescue the stranded, to protect the innocent and restore hope to families who have experienced tremendous and unbearable loss."
Rivers are continuing to rise as massive rainfall across the state makes its way downstream, and major roads like Interstate 40 have turned into rivers, not to mention entire towns.
Hurricane Florence dumped more than 8 trillion gallons of water, and all the record flooding has triggered thousands of water rescues with Coast Guard crews working around the clock airlifting families to safety.
President Trump issued a video statement in advance, thanking the brave first responders and telling hurricane victims, "May God be with them and their families."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
Meanwhile, in Wilmington, residents are cautioned to stay in shelters as utility workers try to restore power to more than 300,000 homes.
More than 7,800 people are still in disaster shelters, down from 10,000 at the start of the week, and many could find themselves essentially homeless after the floodwaters recede.
North Carolina's Gov. Roy Cooper is telling thousands of evacuees not to return home just yet. Wilmington is still mostly marooned, surrounded by floodwaters which could rise again, and people there are waiting for hours for necessities like food.
"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end," Cooper said.
And forecasters say some rivers in the northeastern area of South Carolina might not reach their highest levels until later this week or next week.
That news comes as authorities from Horry County Sheriff's Department in South Carolina say two detainees drowned when a van was swept away in rising flood waters.
The death toll has reached at least 37 across three states. The majority of those deaths, 27, have occurred in North Carolina.
The storm has also taken a heavy toll on North Carolina's agricultural industry, killing 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs in flooding that overwhelmed dozens of farm buildings.
President Trump is promising quick and lasting federal assistance to both states.