I embedded with US Marines on a Hurricane Florence search and rescue mission — here's what happened

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JACKSONVILLE, North Carolina – Camp Lejeune faced criticism from some journalists for not ordering a mandatory evacuation before Hurricane Florence.

But what then looked like a Category 4 hurricane later became a tropical storm, and US Marines at Camp Lejeune ended up assisting with search and rescue missions around the installation.

And while on the ground covering the storm in North Carolina, which has killed more than a dozen people and caused catastrophic flooding and damage, I had a chance to embed with some Marines as they went on a search and rescue operation.

Here’s what happened.

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17 photos show Hurricane Florence’s devastating flooding from the sky

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I met up with the Marines at an emergency operations center in Jacksonville, and quickly jumped in the back of one of their medium tactical vehicle replacements, or seven-ton trucks, before the convoy took off.

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The Marines were assisting the disaster relief operations known as Joint Task Force 60, and their main mission here was to drive about five miles north to Richlands and pick up 30 residents stranded at a fire station.

The creek outside of Richlands had completely flooded, making the town accessible only to the seven-ton trucks. The video below shows the massive flooding surrounding the town.

And the flooding was incredibly deep in many spots.

Daniel Brown/Business InsiderA nearly submerged church en route to Richlands from Jacksonville.

At one point, the convoy stopped for a wellness check, so I jumped out to see what was going on.

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There I met a 56-year-old man, who said his last name was Walters, standing anxiously in front of his home, around which the flooded creek had created a moat.

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Walters said there was still about six feet to go before the waters reached his house, but he was going to hold out for as long as he could because it would be difficult to move his disabled son. He also said he loved his house and proceeded to list all his possessions that he feared he would lose. We had to jump back in the trucks soon thereafter and proceed. I’m not sure what happened to him.

About 15 minutes later, we arrived at Richlands’ voluntary fire department station.

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Inside the station were 30 residents who had been rescued from their homes, many of whom were visibly shaken, along with several firefighters, EMT’s and other first responders.

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Tamara Corzine (right), along with her husband, two daughters, and two step parents, were six of the 30 residents who had to be rescued.

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“At 5:30 in the morning, we woke up and [my step parents’] house was absolutely flooded,” Corzine said.

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“One of our neighbours has a big truck, and he took us to the edge of the water, and a couple of nice guys boated us across, and then people came and took us here,” Corzine said.

Daniel Brown/Business InsiderCorzine embraces her daughter before they get in the back of the seven-ton truck.

“Long periods of boat rides,” Corzine added. “Gum Branch is completely flooded,” she added.

Daniel Brown/Business InsiderCorzine’s older daughter is helped into the back of a seven-ton truck.

Gum Branch Road is the main route through Richlands.

One by one, the Marines and first responders helped the residents into the truck.

Daniel Brown/Business InsiderA Richlands volunteer EMT named Sam holds an elderly woman’s hand while explaining how they will lift her into the back of the truck.

And their dogs, too.

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At one point, I asked the corporal in charge (left), what his thoughts were about Camp Lejeune not ordering a mandatory evacuation. “I’m just here to do my job,” he said with a smile.

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There wasn’t enough room for me in the trucks after the residents were loaded up, so I waited in the fire station for about five hours until the Marines came back.

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Around 11 pm, the Marines and first responders returned, and we made our way back to Jacksonville, making one quick welfare check before they dropped me off at my vehicle.

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Click here to see more Business Insider coverage of Hurricane Florence.

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