North Carolina in the wake of Florence

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 18th of September, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

First up on The World and Everything in It: Hurricane Florence, now classified as a tropical depression. 

The massive storm moved out of North Carolina yesterday, but it left plenty of damage in its wake. At least 20 people have died since Friday morning when Florence came ashore near the town of Wrightsville Beach.

EICHER: At that point, it was a Category 1 hurricane. It dumped as much as 34 inches of rain as it moved slowly across the state. The downpour sent rivers surging over their banks and into homes and businesses. At the height of the storm, half-a-million people lost power.

REICHARD: And the worst is far from over. On Monday, officials issued more evacuation orders. This time for communities 100 miles inland from the North Carolina coast. Officials ordered nearly 8,000 people living within a mile of the Cape Fear and Little rivers to leave immediately as the raging torrents continue to rise.

During a Monday news conference, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence remains a deadly threat.

COOPER: For many parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate. Floodwaters are rising as rivers crest. And they will for days.

Swift water rescue teams have plucked 26-hundred people from floodwaters across the state. That work likely will continue throughout the week, although Cooper pleaded with residents not to put first responders at risk—or themselves.

COOPER: Thirteen more rivers are forecast to reach major or moderate flood stage. Please don’t make yourself someone who needs to be rescued.

EICHER: Wilmington has 120,000 people living in it, and floodwaters had the city completely surrounded. That left those who didn’t evacuate stranded. So the initial relief efforts were primarily about getting food and drinking water to them. Emergency crews had to deliver supplies by helicopter until Monday afternoon, when crews were able to open one route into the area.

Mayor Bill Saffo said it could take days for all roads to clear.

SAFFO: We’ll get through it. We’re resilient down here. We live here on the coast because we love living here. But you have to take into consideration these things are going to happen from time to time.

Florence turned north on Monday, spreading its misery across Virginia and West Virginia. Forecasters warned the flood threat from heavy rainfall would stretch much further: The storm could make it all the way into New England before heading back out to sea on Wednesday.

REICHARD: Back in North Carolina, residents are anxious to start cleaning up, even as flooding continues. New Bern is a coastal town of 30,000, and it’s seen some of the worst flooding so far. Florence left much of the city submerged. On Sunday afternoon, WORLD Magazine’s national editor Jamie Dean spoke to a local pastor who’s helping with relief efforts. She’s here now to talk about it.

Jamie, tell us what’s been happening at one of the local churches there?

JAMIE DEAN, NATIONAL EDITOR: Well, Temple Church is a Baptist congregation in New Bern, which is one of the towns that was hardest hit by the effects of Florence, just lots of severe flooding, severe damage to homes and businesses, and that congregation and their property has now become a headquarters for the organization called North Carolina Baptist Men, which is the relief arm of North Carolina Baptist. Now, that group is sending in different arms to different parts of the state, but this is one of the places where they’re sending volunteers. So, lots of volunteers from that group have already arrived at Temple Baptist, they’re setting up mobile kitchens that can feed thousands of people a day, they’re forming teams to go out and assist damage in the community so that when the time comes they can help folks kind of rebuild and recover. And they’re just preparing to be a hub for recovery efforts in that whole area, really, and those efforts are pretty sure to last for some time.

REICHARD: But as the pastor of that church, Pastor Jim Pennington told you, the worst could be yet to come. What does he expect over the next few days?

DEAN: Well, he and others living in that area and also other cities like Fayetteville, Wilmington, that whole surrounding area are bracing for the pretty strong possibility of more flooding. This storm dumped just record breaking amounts of rain in eastern North Carolina over the whole weekend, and that rain is now swelling rivers that flow into these communities, and when all that water arrives, the flooding could be very substantial again. In fact, the governor was discouraging evacuees from heading back to these parts of the state just yet. And Pastor Jim actually told me that the North Carolina Baptist volunteers who are at the church are not even going to start doing things like mudding out homes and those basic recovery efforts until they see what this flooding does.

REICHARD: Many people evacuated from New Bern ahead of Florence hitting, but some did stay. Pastor Pennington preached to about 100 of his 1,200 congregants on Sunday. What did he tell them?

DEAN: Let’s listen to some of what he said.

PENNINGTON: Well, I went to Mark, chapter four, where Jesus was in the boat and the storm at sea and I just preached a message on, um, how to weather the storms of life. I said, you know, hurricanes are not the only storm that we face, and we face a lot of different storms, and um, you know, sometimes the storm is a spouse walks in and said, ‘I’m leaving.’ Sometimes the storm is a financial failure. Sometimes the storm was you go to the doctor, and he says, ‘I’ve got bad news.’ A lot of storms in our life. And so I told them, I said they were looking for a boat bailer, and Jesus is a storm stopper. Or they were saying, don’t you care, you know, and Jesus stood up, said hush, be still, and he calmed the storm.

REICHARD: Jamie Dean is WORLD Magazine’s national editor. Thanks for this report, Jamie.

DEAN: You’re welcome, Mary.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team rescue a family from their flooded home. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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