Hurricane Florence AftermathBy Yasmine Regester / September 21, 2018
As Hurricane Florence’s wrath along the Carolina coast concludes, things for thousands of North and South Carolina families will never be the same. Heavy downpours from the Category 4 storm, which was downgraded to a Category 2 when it hit landfall, brought flash flooding from the coastal plain last Thursday all the way to the Triad by late Sunday night. Winds in some parts of Guilford County reached upwards of 30 mph, with Guilford County receiving a total of up to 24 inches of rain.
Although Florence had been downgraded to a Tropical Depression by the time it reached Guilford County, the area experienced flash flooding, while other parts of the state experienced extreme flooding that will likely last several weeks. Duke Energy reported 1.4 million total power outages in the Carolinas. There have been at least 37 storm-related deaths reported – 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and two in Virginia. Preliminary numbers from government officials estimate the storm left behind $2.5 billion in damages to the state of North Carolina. The storm also kept Eastern North Carolina synagogues closed on September 19, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
In Greensboro, a section of Lake Brandt Road is still closed while crews repair a sinkhole that formed in the pavement under a bridge due to heavy rain flow. City officials also reported that 63,000 gallons of untreated wastewater in Greensboro leaked from Buffalo Creek and the Cape Fear River basin for four hours before it was detected.
Elizabethtown, North Carolina received the highest recorded amount of precipitation with 36 inches of rain, while other areas received between 20 – 30 inches of rain. More than 1,000 roads remain closed with major portions of Interstate 95 and 40 from the edge of the Piedment to the coast still submerged under floodwaters that are not expected to recede for days. The Cape Fear River crested at 61 feet this week.
N.C. Governor Roy Cooper reminded North Carolinians to avoid flooded roads and be alert for rising rivers even as the sun begins to shine across the state. Motorists are also being advised to bypass North Carolina when traveling, to avoid large sections of flooded highways. There are currently 16 rivers at major flood stage across the state – including the Lumber, Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers.
“Days after Florence first hit our state, we continue to feel the effects of this massive storm,” Gov. Cooper said. “Even though there is no substantial rain in the forecast and the sun may be shining across many parts of our state, rivers continue to rise and we will see more flooding.”
Heavy flooding has caused environmental concerns with gallons of untreated wastewater being pushed into the state’s waterways and drinking water, as well as coal ash from Duke Energy’s pits and hog waste from local pig farms.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates that 5,500 hogs and 3.4 million chicken and turkeys died in the storm. At least 77 hog lagoons in the state have either released pig waste into the environment or are at imminent risk of doing so, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. The department says there are at least 30 more pig waste lagoons in the state at risk of overflowing in the days ahead.
President Donald Trump visited devastated areas in the state on Wednesday, September 19.
Community members and groups are organizing to send meals and supplies to impacted areas. Former NBA player Michael Jordan has pledged to donate $2 million to the Carolinas to assist with hurricane relief.
Triad residents are rallying around their fellow Carolinians affected in eastern North and South Carolina. Food donations and supplies such as personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies and health and household items may be brought to sites in Greensboro such as the Aim Higher Now office at 310 East Sycamore Street, Suite B. Hurricane relief items are also being accepted at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro. A list of more sites can be found at www.tinyurl/flodropoff.com.
To support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence, monetary donations can be made to The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund at www.governor.nc.gov. Monetary and blood donations may also be made to The American Red Cross.