March 21, 2023
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National recap: Thirty-seven dead after Hurricane Florence

Florence, the Category 1 hurricane that hit the American Southeast on Thursday, Sept. 13, continues to wreak havoc and destruction in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

As a result of the hurricane, all three states faced severe damage. Both Carolinas’ streets are severely flooded and are facing tornado threats. The flooding and tornadoes have led to the destruction of hundreds of buildings in both states.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper addressed North Carolinians and advised them to remain in their evacuated locations throughout the duration of the hurricane and its aftermath.

“Rivers will rise days after the storm has stopped,” Cooper said. “Remember, most storm deaths occur from drowning in freshwater, often in cars. Don’t drive across standing or moving water.”

As of the morning of Monday, Sept. 17, 511,000 customers in storm-affected areas have been reported to be without power. By later that day, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety stated the number had dropped to 342,884.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 19, the death count has reached at least 37 people. There are at least 27 dead in North Carolina, at least six in South Carolina and one in Virginia. The causes of death have been mixedpeople have died both from direct contact with the storm and damage to their homes’ electrical systems.

North Carolina appears to be bearing the brunt of the storm. Around 10 trillion gallons of water are expected to rain on the state, 2,600 water rescues have been made and 426 people have needed to be airlifted. Additionally, more than 15,000 people are staying in 150 shelters located in the state.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, it was reported that certain residents of North Carolina are also facing more health risks because of the residue from local pig-farming and coal-mining industries entering the floodwater. Hog waste is known to be detrimental to humans’ health after long-term exposure, causing more frequent instances of lung problems and neurobehavioral issues.

Kemp Burdette, a Cape Fear River Watch RiverKeeper, told CNN that the flooding of pig lagoons, coal mines and the death of farm animals all pose great threats to contaminating the flood water.

“There will be ample opportunity to get sick,” Burdette said. “To be really blunt and honest, there are a lot of these farms upstream from homes that are flooded or will be flooded, and it will wash through people’s homes and cover their belongings. Recovering from a flood is difficult. … It’s pretty terrible.”

Major highways and roads across the Carolinas and Virginia remain blocked off and flooded, preventing people from returning to their homes.

On Monday, Sept. 17, the North Carolina Department of Transportation made a statement via Twitter urging people to stay off the roads. To illustrate its point, it included drone footage of Interstate Highway 40 completely submerged in water.

“This isn’t a river … this is Interstate 40,” the department stated. “This illustrates our message that travel in this area is impassable and unsafe.”

Organizations like the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Americares and the American Red Cross have already sent volunteer teams and supplies to the Carolinas and Virginia. However, they are all still looking for more people to donate supplies, blood and their time to help the people impacted by the hurricane.

Meredith Burke can be reached at or via Twitter: @meredithsburke