Florence live updates from the field Monday: New evacuations and much cleanup ahead

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Our reporters and photojournalists are in the field throughout the Carolinas reporting on the effects of Florence. Their Sunday reports are here and their Saturday reporters are here.

You can follow them at https://twitter.com/newsobserver/lists/hurricane-mcclatchy

Spring Lake, NC: ‘A thing I love has become so dangerous’

Natalie Allen said she’s “heartbroken.”

She was evacuated from her second-floor apartment in Spring Lake near Fort Bragg by Spring Lake Fire-Rescue on Monday when the nearby Little River swelled to her building in a matter of hours, flooding the first floor along with cars in nearby parking lots and rushing quickly just behind the apartment buildings.

“I’m a water baby, I love the water,” Allen told the News & Observer, after stripping off her life jacket and while holding her dog, Ztormme, along with what she could carry from her home.

Allen is new to Fayetteville and said she was thrilled when she moved in to know she’d be near water. But now that same water put her in danger.

“I’m heartbroken that a thing I love so much became so dangerous,” Allen said.

Pfc. MacKayla Dennis and her dogs, Estrella and Momo, live in another building at the Heritage at Fort Bragg Apartments.

Dennis and Estrella watched the evacuation and the rising water. Their home is next in line to flood if the water keeps rising.

“We’re going to get out,” said Dennis, who moved to the area in May and has never experienced a hurricane. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Courtney Pelczynski, her husband Leighton, and their dog, Kaya, also were evacuated from the second floor. Laden with bags — including Kaya’s dog food — the Pelczynskis were led out of the apartment building, wading through water to their knees, with Kaya tugging at the leash and splashing through the water.

Florence was Pelczynski’s first hurricane, too. She and her husband are from Pennsylvania, she said.

“I came out to walk the dog at 6 a.m., and I could still leave the building,” Pelczynski said. “We had food and water. We thought we could wait it out. But it came up so fast. We were just blindsided.”


Southport, NC: Nuclear state of emergency

10:10 a.m.: Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant, about 30 miles south of Wilmington, has declared a state of emergency because the 1,200-acre complex is cut off by flood waters and and inaccessible to outside personnel. The plant has declared the lowest level of emergency, as required by Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said NRC spokesman Joey Ledford.

The problem is that no one can come in and relieve the workers who have been on site for days.

Ledford said the twin-reactor nuclear plant is stable and poses no threat to public safety. It has offsite power from the grid to cool the nuclear reactor and radioactive nuclear waste at the site.

Charlotte-based Duke shut down the two reactors ahead of the advancing storm when Florence was a Category 4 hurricane. Federal law requires nuclear operators to shut down nuclear reactors when sustained wind speeds are at 74 miles per hour or faster.


Goldsboro, NC: ‘Water Damage Specialists’

9:45 a.m.: Jeff and Maureen Winter left New Hampshire three years ago for a single-story house with a big basement overlooking Falling Creek south of Goldsboro. Twice since then hurricanes have turned the three-foot-wide creek into a river that swallowed their backyard and in-ground swimming pool and sent six feet of water into the basement.

Jeff Winter will handle most of the cleanup work himself. He’s a painting contractor, and on the top of his business card and prominently painted on the side of his truck parked in front of his house are the words “Water Damage Specialists.”

Standing on his back deck late Sunday, Winter described what you would see if the water wasn’t rushing past, including grass, a four-foot-chainlink fence and a small pier that led to the creek. The water flowing across his backyard seemed to be receding, he said.

“I got a lot of work to do when it leaves,” he said. “That creek water is gross.”


Roommates from left, Yobany Castillo and Numan Herrera clear out the last items from Herrera’s mobile home on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, located in the Edwards Mobile Park that flooded during Hurricane Matthew. Castillo and Herrera had spent most of the evening moving the majority of the furniture to a storage unit and was planning on locking the home up. It took a year for Herrera to repair the home after severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

Juli Leonard jleonard@newsobserver.com

In contrast to the torrent outside, the water in the basement was stagnant, with paint cans floating in it. After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Winter said he spent three days pressure-washing what is his workshop, then repainted with a special paint that’s supposed to resist mold. He didn’t sound discouraged Sunday or regretful about moving to North Carolina.

“I’m almost 58,” he said. “I’m not going back up north.”