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Wilmington, North Carolina, Begins the Slow Process of Recovery

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Tropical Storm Florence, who came ashore as a Category 1, left in its wake unprecedented rainfall, catastrophic flooding, extensive uprooted trees, widespread power outages, alarming toxic spillage, and the shocking deaths of millions of farm raised animals.

Aa Hurricane Florence dissipated six days ago, the general belief was that North Carolinians had dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that as forecasted Florence slowed to a snails pace and sat on the coast raining for nearly four days dumping nearly 36" of rain as it slowed.

For the next four days it rained. Swollen rivers already at record levels spilled their borders causing unprecedented flooding. Massive portions of the state still remain underwater. The city of Wilmington, located on the coast, in the southeastern portion of the state, become an island unto itself.

Inaccessibile by Air Land, and Sea

With portion of every major entrance into the city closed or underwater, Wilmington and it’s 120,000 residents, both those who stayed and those who heeded the suggestion of the governor and evacuated, were feeling anxious to return to home to assess the damage if any and to pull themselves up and get life back to normal.


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Unfortunately, the shocking fury of Florence made a quick fix impossible. The flooding of more than 1200 roads and major interstates, with the integrity of the roadway under the floodwaters now in question, even reopening the major interstates became impossible.

North Carolina Department of Transportation explained after the floodwaters recede, the roads will be checked for damage. Some may have totally washed away underneath the floodwater; others may be fine. Any road soaking in floodwater for more than a week may have become saturated and like anything soaking for any length of time, the structure weak and malleable.

With the basic necessities in short supply, Wilmington was also in need of gasoline, food, water, power. The situation was so dire the military airlifted more than 60,000 meals into the cut off and devasted city. With all roads into the city still closed, merchants who had any gasoline in the pumps before the storm arrived only needed electricity to help motorists refill tanks.

Five days after Florence arrived, one local Costco finally had electricity and 8800 gallons of gasoline. The line was four hours long. Opening at 6:00am by 1:00pm the pumps were dry. The power returned on the sixth day to the downtown area. The roads into the city still remain closed and according to all the best guess for all residents evacuated to return would be in five days.

Sheltered residents are still waiting for the go-ahead to return to home, even with the late fall sunshine warming the region. The beautiful Carolina day doesn’t translate to all is well.

Death Toll

Florence did turn deadly claiming 37 lives to-date. Death totals are expected to increase as the floodwaters recede with the possibility of finding more submerged vehicles.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have submitted preliminary totals of 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 pigs also killed in the raging waters.


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Sanderson Farms, one of the state’s largest poultry producers issued a statement regarding the devastating effects Florence and the residual rains and flooding has had on its facilities and production, “The Company estimates that approximately 1.7 million head of broiler chickens out of an average live inventory of approximately 20 million head, ranging in age from six days to sixty-two days, were destroyed as a result of flooding,” it said in a statement this week.”

The Cape Fear River, in Fayetteville, N.C., which crested today, on the sixth day, at a record 61.4 feet, flows south through Wilmington, and into the Atlantic, and faced severe contamination as toxic coal ash containing lead, arsenic and mercury, manure lagoons from the states large hog industry, and after a local powerplant lost power, partially treated human waste and sewage all pouring into the river.

The inundated city can expect the flood water levels to increase and The Cape Fear river will remain at flood stage for an additional week.

The stories now coming out of the state as residents trickle back into devastated areas are shocking. With power still out, roads still blocked, basic necessities are not the only thing in short supply. Amtrak announced rail service would resume Thursday which means that supplies will arrive, via railroad to the stretched city.

By all account the first week of October will see most roads dry, although assessments may take longer. Ariel photos showing washed out basins, large chunks of highway lying in borken, crumbled pieces, have become the expectation as major highways remain closed due to high water.

Travel into the coastal city will be open and options available.

Florence horror stories of evacuation, or riding it out, the lucky and those not so will eventually be the talk as life returns to a new normal.

The historic storm, the hundred year apocalyptic rains, caused a record $18billion in damages.

 

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