What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

North Carolina’s Florence flood disaster is growing

Flooding from Florence has drowned out more than 1,500 roads across eastern North Carolina, temporarily cutting off the city of Wilmington over the weekend, as the waters continue to rise. Other areas are still unreachable. Forecasts show heavy flooding could reach 250 miles inland, bringing tragedy and potential environmental disaster with it. William Brangham reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We begin with William Brangham on the situation after the storm.

  • William Brangham:

    All across Eastern North Carolina, water has drowned out roads, more than 1,500 of them. The flooding has steadily worsened since the storm made landfall near Wilmington early Friday.

    Over the weekend, this riverfront city home to 120,000 people was completely cut off by land. Today, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said crews managed to open a single supply route. But he warned evacuees against using it to return because the water keeps rising.

  • Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C.:

    We have got one limited route into Wilmington, and it's being used for supplies and necessary emergency material and utility workers and law enforcement. And we don't need people going back right now, particularly when this route may disappear tonight.

  • William Brangham:

    Inside the city, people waiting in lines today for ice gas, food and other supplies.

  • Louis Buck:

    We were able to go and get groceries, so we have food, but we have no power. So we have to be able to keep the food cold. And we have had to throw out a lot of food, so we're trying to keep what we have left.

  • Lawrence Brown:

    Hoping I can get some gas. Then we're running out of ice at home. Been out of electric about four days now.

  • William Brangham:

    Over two-thirds of the city's customers lost power and utility companies are working to restore it.

    Jeff Brooks is with Duke Energy. He spoke to the "NewsHour" from Wilmington.

  • Jeff Brooks:

    Since storm, we have moved in additional reinforcements into the area from as far away as Ohio and Kentucky and Indiana. And about 1,100 of those line crews from the Midwest came down just as the storm was clearing the area and have been working here on the ground ever since. We can't even get to assess the damage in some areas. We're flying helicopters today to begin looking at some of the damage in the hardest-hit areas that we can't access by vehicle.

  • William Brangham:

    Fifty miles to the north, Jacksonville, North Carolina, is also hard-hit. The New River burst its banks over the weekend.

    Jason Padilla paddled in a canoe through what had been streets.

  • Jason Padilla:

    This has been — it's been surreal, man. You only see this in TV. I never thought I would see this for real.

  • William Brangham:

    And it's expected to get even worse. Forecasts show heavy flooding could reach 250 miles inland in North Carolina and with it tragedy.

    Today, 170 miles west of the coast, In New Salem, police found the body of a 1-year-old boy. The child was swept away in floodwaters on Sunday when his mother lost her grip on him.

  • Eddie Cathey:

    They searched and searched and searched for the child, and the child was found this morning.

  • William Brangham:

    In another inland city, Fayetteville, 100 miles from the coast, the downtown is largely underwater. Officials have ordered new evacuations, worried the Cape Fear River will go higher still.

  • Woman:

    Basically, I just stacked up the chairs because I was thinking, maybe if we did flood, it would probably just come up to here, just to save a little bit of what I have.

  • William Brangham:

    Wahida Reese and her daughter Anisa rode out the storm initially, but by Sunday, they were forced to pack up and leave.

    There could be environmental damage as well with word that several large hog waste lagoons in the North Carolina countryside have failed and are spilling pollution. And a coal ash landfill owned by Duke Energy has also been breached.

    Meanwhile, officials in South Carolina are also warning of flash flooding after a long weekend of heavy rain from Florence. Similar warnings have gone out in West Virginia and Virginia, as the storm's remnants begin curving back to the north and to the east.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This evening, authorities in Virginia reported one person killed in an apparent tornado spawned by Florence. We will take a closer look at another part of North Carolina's suffering in the wake of the storm. And that's later in the program.

Listen to this Segment