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The port city of Charleston is prone to flooding even in normal rain events, so local officials and residents prepared for the worst when awaiting Hurricane Dorian. In the end, the city saw less flooding and storm surge than they had feared, although the winds were actually stronger than anticipated. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg joins Judy Woodruff to discuss preparation and cleanup.
Back here in the U.S., the storm has weakened as it churns up the Atlantic Coastline. But it still poses a threat.
And Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the places in its sights today, as we have been hearing.
John Tecklenburg is the mayor, and I spoke with him by phone.
Mayor Tecklenburg, thank you very much for talking with us.
So, what has Charleston seen of this storm?
Well, thank you, Judy.
Charleston, a beautiful city, has seen kind of an ugly day. It's been Dorian day in Charleston today. And the good news is, even though the wind was higher than we expected, the water was lower.
And in a city where flooding and sea level rise are a number one issue, boy, that was good news today.
So, preparations, did you feel the city was prepared for what might come?
Well, I was.
And, Judy, we have had real practice over the last four years. We have had four years now with the hurricane preparation. So, we really, if I may say, have this down to somewhat of a science.
We were really prepared. And — but we have seen quite a storm here today, and now have had some impacts. We have a number of closed roads, lots of people without power, over half of our citizens. So we have got some cleanup to do, and we have had a day today.
And what about evacuations? Were you in a situation where you had to urge people to leave?
We have been doing that for — since Monday, when governor, Governor McMaster, issued an evacuation order, and we fully support the governor when he does so.
And so we have been asking people to leave, and then we know a lot of folks don't. So all of those folks remaining, we ask them to hunker down and batten down the hatches. And I'm very proud of our citizens that, last night and today, it was like a ghost town, and people were off the street.
And that really helps people stay safe, but it also protects our first — our wonderful first responders that they don't have to go out and make response calls that are unnecessary.
You do have cleanup. You were spared the worst. You didn't have the flooding, the storm surge that you might have had, but you're saying there's work to be done?
And we had some flooding, but it just wasn't as bad as we anticipated. The wind was a little higher, so, yes, we have got some cleanup to do. But we have got crews standing by, and now are finally out in the streets doing work and pumping water and cutting down trees.
We have got over 100 local streets that are closed, mostly due to trees and power lines that are down. So, together, with the power company, we are working to get those streets back open.
And we're going to have beautiful weather this weekend. In fact, we will be back in business this weekend.
And, Mayor, how much harder do you believe this was because of the unpredictability of this storm? It was a Category 5 and then a 4. And, as you know, it was a 2, then back to a 3, and the time of arrival was so unclear.
How much more difficult did that make your job?
Well, this is a very uncertain business.
And let me say, my heart goes out to the devastation that occurred in the Bahamas. In fact, we have some local folks that are already starting local relief efforts for the Bahamas. That was just terrible devastation down there.
But a week ago, they were saying this storm would barrel on across Florida, rather than even coming our way. So it's just an uncertain science. There's a lot of science to it, but it's a bit uncertain.
So you just have to prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best. That's what we always do.
Well, we wish you the very best with all the recovery that you have ahead of you. And, yes, we all are so relieved that it wasn't worse than it was in your city.
The mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg, thank you very much.
Thank you so much, Judy.
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