TROPICAL STORM FLORENCE North Carolina prepares for long-term recovery
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina must withstand more torrential rain, gusty wind and river flooding from tropical storm Florence next week, but emergency leaders are already working on the recovery.
Nonprofit groups are preparing to serve tens of thousands of meals daily in the most-damaged areas, while state and federal emergency officials are locating temporary housing, including hotel rooms, for storm victims in the weeks or months that they're displaced.
“We are expecting several more days of rain, and our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said as the storm puttered slowly west near the South Carolina border. “And then we will shift into putting our communities back together.”
Thousands of the 20,000 people staying in more than 150 shelters this weekend and others waiting it out elsewhere won't be able to return to their homes for good any time soon. Cooper asked displaced residents Saturday to resist the urge to return until the storm clears out and roads are passable.
Homes have been washed away by storm surge or made unlivable by standing water, fallen trees or other debris. And even if their homes survived intact, hundreds of thousands of utility customers who lack power have limited food options.
The North Carolina Baptist Men's organization planned to begin soon moving kitchen equipment inland, where they expect to prepare 85,000 meals a day when all its feeding operations are up and running. The first units were expected to open early next week, according to Jack Frazier, Baptist Men's disaster relief coordinator.
With close to 90 of the state's 100 counties setting up their emergency management offices, all signs point to a long recovery from Florence.
“I'll tell you, this one is so widespread, you're going to have a hard time finding a North Carolinian who is not going to be affected by this storm in some way,” Cooper said.
Florence bringing extreme rainfall
Houses and yards are surrounded by water from Florence, now a tropical storm, in New Bern, North Carolina, on Saturday.
Heavy equipment is used to cover a railroad with sand in anticipation of flooding from the nearby Lumber River in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Saturday.