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MIAMI (AP/WJZY) — How do you measure a disaster like Florence? In sum, the storm is turning out to be every bit as devastating as forecasters expected, with trillions of gallons of rain still in the forecast, hundreds of people needing rescue, hundreds of thousands of power outages and a handful of deaths. The economic toll remains to be tallied.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Storm deaths: At least 7 people have died
- Heavy rains: Up to 18 trillion gallons falling on seven states over seven days, as much water as there is the entire Chesapeake Bay
- So far: Nearly 24 inches of rain was reported in Newport, just off the North Carolina coast, and forecasters Saturday expected another 15 inches in parts of the Carolinas.
- In the dark: About 900,000 outages as of Saturday morning, mostly in North Carolina, with Duke Energy anticipating 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses losing power
- Protected: More than 19,000 people in shelters in North Carolina, 6,400 in South Carolina and 400 in Virginia
- Grounded: More than 2,400 flights canceled
- Potential losses: estimated $10 billion to $60 billion in economic damages
- Rescued: more than 400 people needed help in high waters in New Bern and Jacksonville, North Carolina
Officials confirmed at least four deaths in North Carolina: A mother and infant killed in Wilmington when a tree fell on their house. In Lenoir County, a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while plugging in a generator in the rain, and a 77-year-old man died after being blown to the ground while checking on his hunting dogs.
Dozens of polluted industrial sites, chemical plants, coastal shipyards and military bases are in Florence’s path, along with scores of low-lying water and sewage treatment plants at risk of flooding. Environmental groups are worried hog lagoons and coal ash dumps that could contaminate soils or rivers used as sources for drinking water.
Long before President Donald Trump tossed paper towels to storm-stricken Puerto Ricans and denied Hurricane Maria’s reported death toll, his predecessors sometimes struggled to steer the nation through life-and-death emergencies. Meanwhile, House Democrats slammed Trump for dismissing Maria’s death toll as a plot. Trump will travel next week to areas hit by Florence.
“When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.” The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, “3000 PEOPLE KILLED.” They hired….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2018
VOICES OF LOSS
Reporters for The Associated Press, the news site Quartz and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism have compiled the most detailed portrait yet of the agonizing final days of victims of Hurricane Maria, interviewing 204 families of the dead and reviewing accounts of 283 more to tell the stories of heretofore anonymous victims.
The 470-mile Blue Ridge Parkway that winds through the Appalachians in Virginia and North Carolina closed at 8 p.m. Friday to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians until further notice because of expected high winds and heavy rains. Hikers have been told to seek shelter off the Appalachian Trail to avoid falling trees, flash floods and mudslides.
SOUTH CAROLINA INFRASTRUCTURE
Torrential rains from Florence will test South Carolina’s infrastructure , which failed under nearly 2 feet of rain in 2015. A year later, flooding from Hurricane Matthew caused about 25 dams to fail. More than 3,000 maintenance workers are on standby statewide to fix broken traffic signals, barricade problem areas and make roads safe again.
SPORTS STEP UP
Basketball great Michael Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina and owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, and new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper are providing relief to those affected by Florence. Jordan said it’s “devastating” to see the damage, and his organization and the NBA are “here to help.” In a tweet, Tepper said the Panthers are working with charities to develop a response plan.
A family rescued from their New Jersey home by boat during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 is waiting to find out whether Florence took their new one in North Carolina. Rather than rebuild in Union Beach, New Jersey, the Liebelt family decided to start over in Wilmington, North Carolina.