Hurricane Florence Causes Widespread Flooding in The Carolinas

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Hurricane Florence making landfall over the Carolinas (Photo Credit: NOAA)

As had been expected, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 am ET. on September 14, 2018. While downgraded to a Category 1, with sustained winds of 90 mph, the storm still packed a powerful punch, causing widespread flooding, destroying several structures and knocking out power to over 900,000 homes. While that was bad enough, what made things worse was Florence’s languid, 6 kph pace which caused the storm to linger close to the coastline. Armed with an unlimited supply of water vapor from the warm Atlantic Ocean, it dumped a record 23 inches of rain in South Carolina and 35 inches in North Carolina over the course of just four days. While Florence, now a tropical depression, has moved on, the trillions of gallons of rainwater that is making its way into rivers and streams is resulting in flooding of epic proportions.

Aerial view of flooding in North Carolina as of September 17 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Belinda O’Neal Dresel)

Many of the over 8,000 North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia residents forced to evacuate, are still living in Red Cross shelters or with family and friends. Some are waiting for the water levels to recede, while others are unable to return home either because the roads remain closed or because they have no means of transport to get there. Some of the streets in Kinston, North Carolina are so flooded that the National Guard is using helicopters to distribute water to stranded residents. While North Carolina farmers managed to escape, their animals were not as lucky. Despite moving them to higher ground before the storm hit, an estimated 3.4 million poultry birds and 5,500 pigs are believed to have drowned. In South Carolina, the flooding has damaged cotton, peanut, and hemp crops.

And the danger is far from over. About a dozen rivers in North and South Carolina have overflowed their banks. Particularly concerning is the continued swelling of the 140-mile-long Waccamaw River, which runs through both states. North Carolina officials have asked residents living along the river, especially those in Brunswick County, to evacuate and move to safer grounds.

Search and rescue efforts in Lumberton and Pembrook, NC by West Metro Fire (Photo Credit: West Metro Fire via Twitter)

When the water eventually recedes, North Carolina residents will have to not only deal with the usual clean-up challenges but also added health-risks caused by its key industries: pig farming and coal power generation.

Home to nine million pigs, North Carolina is known for its hog “lagoons” – human-made pits or dugouts – that store animal waste and allow it to decompose to reduce pollution. On September 18, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality reported that four of the “lagoons” had been breached, allowing manure to escape, 13 others had overflowed their banks due to the rainwater, and nine more had been inundated by flooding from nearby streams. Though it is still unclear how much of the waste is in the storm water, even a small exposure to feces, which contains bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, can pose significant health issues to the residents.

Water levels continue to rise near Cape Fear River in North Carolina (Photo Credit: Fayetteville Police via Twitter)

Then there is the danger of coal ash polluting the water supply as well. The industrial waste, generated by coal-burning power plants, contains heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and mercury, which carry health risks. Similar to hog waste, the ash is collected in landfills close to the energy plants. On September 20, 2018, power plant operator Duke Energy reported that about 2,000 cubic yards of the harmful waste had been displaced from one of the landfills. Though company spokesperson Erin Culbert asserts, "We don't have any indication that the ash has gone to the cooling pond,” he has promised to continue monitoring the situation.

While the road to recovery will be long, Americans are doing everything they can to help the affected residents. In addition to President Trump’s promise of full federal support to help pay for the estimated $22 billion of damage caused by the hurricane, people nationwide are sending in donations to the nonprofit agencies assisting the storm’s victims. On September 18, 2018, six-time NBA champion and Charlotte Hornets owner, Michael Jordan, who grew up playing basketball in Wilmington, North Carolina, donated $2 million to the cause. In addition, members of the Hornets organization are putting together 5,000 boxes for food banks in Charlotte, North Carolina. The team has also partnered with NBA merchandising company Fanatics to help raise funds with a special T-shirt, featuring the Hornets logo in the middle of the Carolinas states with the words "Carolina Strong” around it.

Resources: CNN.com, Vox,com, NPR.org, Wikipedia.org

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799 Comments
  • OwlFriday, May 31, 2019 at 7:10 am
    I saw that someone offered to help by buying a brand new piano
    • JulieTuesday, April 23, 2019 at 1:38 pm
      i'm really sorry for your family
      • sweetcheese
        sweetcheeseThursday, April 18, 2019 at 7:37 pm
        soooo sad:(
        • chlooe
          chlooeThursday, April 18, 2019 at 3:40 pm
          I remember I saw this on the news and I asked my mom what happened. It was a horrific moment and I was really worried about the people who were probably trapped in the houses. I remember when a person interviewed a survivor and how she couldn't leave because the survivor didn't want to leave her piano, which was passed down generation to generation.
          • OwlTuesday, April 2, 2019 at 3:39 pm
            When I got the notification about this all I could do was wonder what was going to happen to my house ,friends and family all I could do is sit there and cry but I had to stay positive and then we had 2hrs to evacuate all I could take was clothes and pictures what was going to happen to my room where would we stay if we came home to nothing set would we evacuate to would i be safe we lost power we had no food water air heat nothing no generator what was going to happen to me all I could do was pray # NC strong
            • OwlFriday, March 29, 2019 at 12:08 pm
              I live here and had to evacuate:(
              • awesomeperson Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 7:46 am
                I live in north Carolina:(
                • A thingThursday, February 28, 2019 at 7:31 pm
                  The wind noked down a tree and it fell on the power lines!!! And we had no power for two days and it was hot I felt like I was gonna melt
                  • chlooe
                    chlooeThursday, April 18, 2019 at 3:41 pm
                    Wow... It was that bad?
                  • no oneTuesday, February 19, 2019 at 12:57 pm
                    That is unblieveble. Soooooooooooooooooo sad.
                    • rachelMonday, February 11, 2019 at 5:12 pm
                      that's sad!