Tropical Storm Florence, The Aftermath and Beyond
Sunday, the flooding from Tropical Storm Florence spread across the Carolinas, with roads to Wilmington cut off by the epic deluge and muddy river water swamping entire neighborhoods miles inland.
“The risk to life is rising with the angry waters,” Governor Roy Cooper declared as the storm’s death toll rose to 17.
The storm continued to slowly move westward, dumping more than 30 inches of rain in spots since Friday, and fears of historic flooding grew.
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In Wilmington , with roads leading in and out of the city underwater and streams still swelling, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants for basic necessities like water.
About 70 miles away from the coast, residents near the Lumber River stepped from their homes directly into boats floating in their front yards; river forecasts showed the scene could be repeated in towns as far as 250 miles inland as waters rise for days.
Downgraded overnight to a tropical depression, Florence is still massive, with the radar showing parts of the storm over six Southeastern states and flood worries spreading into southern Virginia and West Virginia, North and South Carolina were still in the bull’s-eye.
In North Carolina, fears of what could be the worst flooding in the state’s history led officials to order tens of thousands to evacuate, though it wasn’t clear how many had fled or even could. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Brock Long, said officials were focused on finding people and rescuing them.
“We’ll get through this. It’ll be ugly, but we’ll get through it,” Mr. Long said in a TV interview Sunday
US President Donald Trump said federal emergency workers, first responders and law enforcement officials were “working really hard.” As the storm “begins to finally recede, they will kick into an even higher gear. Very Professional!” he declared in a Tweet.
The storm’s death toll climbed to at least 17 when a 3-month-old child was killed when a tree fell across a mobile home in North Carolina.
As rivers swelled, state regulators and environmental groups were monitoring the threat from gigantic hog and poultry farms located in low-lying, flood-prone areas.
The industrial-scale farms contain vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters.
In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in floodwaters.
Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels. The US Defense Department said about 13,500 soldiers, sailors and Marines are assigned to help relief efforts.
Rainfall totals were huge.
In Swansboro, North Carolina, nearly 34 ins of rain had fallen by Sunday afternoon and 20 other places in North Carolina had at least 20 ins, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Another 30 sites in North and Carolina had at least 10 ins.
Water on the Cape Fear River near Chinquapin got so high that electronic instruments used to monitor flooding quit working after it became submerged, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. The same thing happened on the Trent River.
Power outages in the Carolinas and Virginia were down to about 580,000 homes and businesses after reaching a high of about 910,000 as the hurricane plowed into the coast. Utilities said some outages could last for weeks.
In Goldsboro, North Carolina, home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, roads that frequently flood were already closed Saturday by rushing water. Dozens of electric repair trucks massed to respond to damage expected to hit central North Carolina as rainwater collected into rivers headed to the coast.
Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington late Saturday, but there was no indication contamination had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River.
On the other side of the world
In Hong Kong and South China, Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall Sunday after lashing the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left dozens dead. More than 2.4-M people were evacuated from China’s southern Guangdong province ahead of the massive typhoon, the strongest to hit the region in nearly 20 years