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Florence evacuation orders continue as the Carolinas face flooding

At least five people have died and millions are without power as Tropical Storm Florence continues to cause destruction in the Carolinas. Winds have slowed but the storm is forecast to move east, making inland flooding one big worry for South Carolina where rivers are expected to swell further. South Carolina ETV reporter Gavin Jackson joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

    The winds are slowing but the water is still rising. Rains from what was Hurricane Florence are flooding eastern portions of North and South Carolina. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued this afternoon for those living within a mile of the Cape Fear and Little Rivers. At least five people have died and at least a million are still without power. Rescuers are using boats to bring people to safety. North Carolina's governor pleaded with residents not to return to their homes and to prepare for more damage and destruction.

  • ROY COOPER:

    Rivers will rise. Days after the rain has stopped. In the east they will crest Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Remember, most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars. Don't drive across standing or moving water.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    This storm is now forecast to move slowly across South Carolina where many rivers are projected to break record flood levels.

    Joining us now via Skype is South Carolina ETV reporter Gavin Jackson. Gavin tell me where you are and what you've seen today so far?

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    Hey, Hari I'm in Georgetown County. I'm in the armory down here, we're about 40 miles south of Myrtle Beach where we've seen a lot of the the big impacts from this storm in South Carolina, head down the coast here. Myrtle Beach did get a lot of tropical storm force winds yesterday. We did see a lot of debris, I did see some trees on power lines yesterday. It's just been a little bit of rain today, not too much wind. A lot of that rain is moving inland right now. And officials are telling us that we should expect eight to 12 more inches of rain across the state for the next couple of days. So they're really worried about inland flooding at this point and they're keeping their eyes on a couple of waterways that typically flood in these situations.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And tell us a little bit about what kind of impact it's having when it comes to those smaller creeks and those rivers that are starting to swell up and they might not even crest until maybe Monday or Tuesday in some cases.

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    That's the thing, we've been driving over some of these bridges in the state. And they're looking pretty full right now, these waterways that we're driving, were looking pretty full and those are only expected to get more and more flooded and swollen as the water comes down from North Carolina. We've seen this in Hurricane Matthew in 2016, so officials know what to expect. They are keeping their eyes on certain waterways and they're telling citizens to kind of expect what they already know to happened so people know what their flood prone areas are and they know that they should be looking out for those rising waters because in a lot of places, we're still under flash flood warnings. In the area I'm in, the area of Myrtle Beach is also still under evacuation order because they expect conditions to slowly deteriorate in some areas due to swelling.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What's the challenge been for first responders as they try to get into some of these areas where there have been evacuation orders but there are still people deciding to ride it out?

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    You know Hari, I was riding around with the National Guard today, which reversed the Grand Strand what we call it, which includes Georgetown or Orange County which includes Myrtle Beach. We went up and down the major highways and we didn't see much damage or flooding at this stage. And we just heard from the governor's press conference that they haven't had to do any water rescues at this point. Sadly, the only fatality we've had in South Carolina was about 150 miles inland in Union County where a woman last evening actually came across a tree in a roadway and got into an accident and she died as a result of that. But other than that, a lot of South Carolinans have responded to these evacuation orders. And officials are saying that their lack of having any rescues in the state.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what about the people who are in shelters, the ones who already took cover? Is the governor telling them to come back at any certain point?

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    I think it's becoming more of a local issue. A lot of other counties in the state have actually lifted their evacuation orders. They're still telling people not to come back necessarily until they know what the situation is in certain areas. So I think it's kind of a play by ear and some of these situations but other shelters have been open, there's plenty of room for people in the shelters. I can't remember the number of my head but there are a couple of thousand people in shelters across the state.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know, in these kind of scenarios usually utility companies have line workers ready to go and come back in to make sure that they can kind of clear the power lines, turn the lights back on, considering all the trees that might have been down. Are you seeing any of that yet?

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    Hari, yesterday actually I was out in the wind, in the rain with Santee Cooper electric crew that's the local electric cooperative here that covers the Myrtle Beach area. They were actually up in a bucket truck and 40-50 mile an hour winds getting chainsaw and a tree off of these power lines, these high voltage lines and they were doing it like no sweat, which is really remarkable for the rest of us to watch. I was also in Lynn in Florence, the city of Florence, the county of Florence, ironically enough and they are actually staging 2,000 linemen there from Florida and that's just a small fraction of the 20,000 linemen I have been told that are on call and response for the storm in both Carolinas.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And the military vehicles we see behind you, what's the role of any military resources in this?

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    So like I said earlier today, I was up in Conway and that's an area that's prone to flooding, they have Waccamaw river right there, it's also close to the Lumber River, which flooded during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and actually flooded out the town of Nicolls. So they've been positioning high water vehicles across the coast and also inland for this emergency situation when it comes to flooding these rivers that they know are going to flood. So these high water vehicles, just in case many rescues, which haven't happened yet.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. South Carolina ETV reporter Gavin Jackson joining us via Skype. Thanks so much.

  • GAVIN JACKSON:

    Thank you.

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