NC State Experts Can Discuss Hurricane, Flood Issues

Image via the National Hurricane Center, as of 11:00 am AST, Sep 10, 2018.

As Hurricane Florence churns in the Atlantic, media looking for information on a variety of hurricane and flood topics can contact the following North Carolina State University experts:

Hurricane Formation, Prediction, Impact
Gary Lackmann, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, can discuss research on hurricane prediction and impacts, including their formation and evolution, and the influence of climatological conditions on hurricane frequency, size, and intensity. He can be reached at 919/515-1439 or [email protected]

Storm Surge Modeling
Casey Dietrich, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, is an expert on how computational models can be used to predict storm surge and related impacts during hurricanes. He can be reached at 919/515-5277 or [email protected]

Coastal Damage
North Carolina Sea Grant’s Spencer Rogers is an expert in hurricane-resistant coastal building techniques and erosion control. Rogers is stationed in Wilmington, N.C. He can be reached at 910/620-0590.

Traffic System and Highway Infrastructure Impacts
George List, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, is an expert on transportation and logistics infrastructure who can discuss the potential effects of hurricanes on traffic systems and highway infrastructure. He can be reached at 919/515-8038 or [email protected]

Flood Control
Sankar Arumugam, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, can discuss what authorities can do in regard to flood control if a hurricane comes inland. He can be reached at 919/515-7700 or [email protected]

Impacts on Septic Systems, Wastewater Treatment Utilities and Solid Waste
Morton Barlaz, Distinguished University Professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, can discuss the amount of solid waste generated by hurricanes and related building damage. He can be reached at 919/515-7676 or [email protected]

Francis de los Reyes, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, is an expert on sanitation systems who can discuss the impact of hurricanes and floodwaters on wastewater treatment utilities and septic systems. He can be reached at 919/515-7416 or [email protected]

Care for Pets and Animals During and After Disasters
Kelli Ferris, assistant professor of clinical sciences, directs the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Community-Campus Partnership, which provides a range of veterinary services to communities across the state. Utilizing a mobile veterinary hospital, she cared for hundreds of animals in the aftermaths of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Irene in 2011. She can be reached at 919/606-2752 or [email protected]

David Eggleston, director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, can speak about the impact that hurricanes can have on crab and fisheries populations along the eastern seaboard. He can be reached at 252/222-6301, 919/515-7840, or at [email protected]

Barrett Slenning, College of Veterinary Medicine director of agrosecurity and biopreparedness, can speak to large-animal care, emergency needs and biosecurity issues. He can be reached at 919/513-6324 or [email protected]

Agriculture
Mike Yoder, associate director of NC State Extension, can address a range of issues related to both crops and livestock. He can be reached at 919/801-8243 or [email protected]

Water Quality
Storm-related flooding can damage drinking water wells and lead to aquifer and well contamination. Direct human contact with floodwaters presents additional risks. Michael Burchell, an associate professor and department extension leader of biological and agricultural engineering, can discuss water-quality concerns in a disaster. He can be reached at 919/513-7348 or [email protected]

David Eggleston, director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, can discuss a hurricane’s effects on ocean salinity and dissolved oxygen levels. He can be reached at 252/222-6301, 919/515-7840, or at [email protected]

Policy and Politics in Natural Disasters
Natural disasters are inherently political events. Policies can mitigate or exacerbate the effects of disasters, and problems with relief and recovery can become political crises. Tom Birkland, a professor of public policy, is an internationally known expert who does research on the effects of disasters on the resilience of communities and on their water, power, transport and telecommunications infrastructure. He can be reached at 919/513-1834 or [email protected]

Mary Watzin, dean of the College of Natural Resources, can speak to thinking differently about development and water management.  She can be reached at 919/515-2883 or [email protected]

Food Safety
Ben Chapman, a food-safety specialist and associate professor of family and consumer sciences, can discuss food-safety issues related to post-hurricane power outages. He can be reached at 919/515-8099 or 919/809-3205, or at [email protected]

Safety on Farms and With Generators
During times of adverse weather, generators can be used to provide electrical power, but if not operated correctly can be hazardous. Grant Ellington (919/515-6793 or [email protected]), extension assistant professor of agricultural engineering, can offer tips on using generators. He and Gary Roberson (919/515-6715 or [email protected]), extension specialist and associate professor of agricultural engineering, can also provide information on general farm safety.

Effects on Children and Parents
Kimberly Allen, extension parenting and youth development specialist, can discuss the effects of disasters – like hurricanes – on children and parents, and how to help parents assist their children in preparing for and recovering from a disaster. She can be reached at 919/515-9139 or [email protected]

Hazards Adaptation
North Carolina Sea Grant’s Jessica Whitehead has expertise regarding communication of weather information, as well as the impact of storms and flooding and resilient recovery. She can be reached at 919/515-1686 or [email protected]

Home Cleanup and Restoration
Sarah Kirby can talk about a variety of topics on storm damage to homes, including cleaning and minor structural repairs. She can be reached at 919/515-9154 or [email protected]

Effect on Trees and Timber Resources
Rajan Parajuli, assistant professor and extension specialist in forest economics, can discuss economic damage to the timber industry and any salvage operations. He can be reached at 919/513-2579 or [email protected]

Insects and Other Pests
Storms can displace insects and other wildlife, raising concerns about how to manage them in a storm’s aftermath. Entomologist Michael Waldvogel can discuss these topics; he can be reached at 919/515-8881 or [email protected]

Livestock Pests
Entomologist Wes Watson, a livestock pest expert, can answer questions related to managing flies and other pests on livestock and poultry farms with wet manure and hay. He can be reached at 919/515-2746 or [email protected]u.edu.

Impact on Local Wildlife
Chris DePerno, a professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, can discuss hurricane impacts on wild animals. He can be reached at [email protected] or 919/513-7559.

On the Web

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Picturing disaster: The 1931 Wuhan flood

Article image

Rickshaw pullers working the flooded streets

In 1931, China experienced arguably the most lethal flood in history. Rivers throughout the country rose onto their plains, inundating an area the size of England and half of Scotland combined. Around a tenth of the Chinese population was affected; over two million people died, either by drowning or by the subsequent famine and epidemics.

While the scale of this disaster was exceptional, devastating floods and droughts had become increasingly common in China since the nineteenth century. Political instability, economic turmoil and incessant warfare had left the population vulnerable to environmental hazards. In most cases, rural communities bore the brunt of these disasters, but the 1931 flood was so extensive that cities also suffered. Nowhere was more profoundly affected than Wuhan, a bustling metropolis in the middle Yangzi region.

Recently, while researching my book on the history of the flood, I found a short book of photographs taken in Wuhan during the disaster, published by the local Zenith Studios. The names of the photographers have long since been forgotten, but their pictures offer a fascinating insight into how a historic population coped with a deluge that inundated their homes for a number of months.

The problems began in the spring as river water began pouring into the streets and mingled with effluent disgorged from overflowing sewers. Soon the whole city was permeated by a horrific stench, which only grew worse under the heat of the sun. Rickshaw pullers and other menial workers had to wade through filthy water to earn a living, while customers perched precariously on the awnings. This was one of many inequalities to define experiences of the disaster.

As the floodwater crept higher, the streets were transformed into canals. Enterprising sampan owners – who ordinarily scraped a living by ferrying cargo around the harbours – began renting out their boats as water taxis. Those who could not afford the grossly inflated fares took to the water in a bizarre flotilla of improvised vessels: rafts made from doors, inflated goatskins and wooden bathtubs. Some people even emptied out coffins and used them as canoes.


1| Sampans in the flooded streets of Wuhan

In late July, the dykes that encircled Wuhan collapsed. The water that had been held back now cascaded into the city at terrifying speed. Flood waves scoured whole neighbourhoods from the landscape. Thousands of people living in houses constructed from timber and earth drowned or were buried alive. Those who survived salvaged what they could – a little food, religious artefacts, anything buoyant – and began their search for refuge.

As the value of dry space increased, hoteliers tripled their rates, packing rooms well beyond capacity. But buildings that were already compromised by water could not cope with this additional weight, and when one hotel collapsed in August, dozens of people sheltering inside were killed.


2| A collapsed hotel at Dazhimen

Amid the destruction and chaos, people sought to preserve a sense of normality. Workers in the United States consulate continued to hoist their national flag every morning in accordance with regulations, even though they had to row out to their flagpole. The local traffic police struggled to maintain order in streets overrun by sampans. At first they stood on boxes and tried to keep boats in lanes, but as the floodwater grew deeper they were forced to climb into the branches of trees. And when the water reached a depth of two metres, they could do little but sit back and watch as large cargo junks sailed into the city centre, careering into banks and godowns (warehouses).

One particularly careless junkman sailed his vessel into the Texaco oil depository, causing a huge fire that was too hot for the fire brigade to approach. The fire burned for three days, spewing flaming oil onto the surface of the water, and noxious smoke into the atmosphere. As the city’s electrical system had long since failed, the Texaco fire offered a rare source of illumination, casting its flickering light over apocalyptic scenes: crumbling buildings, howling dogs stranded on rooftops, and thousands of floating corpses.


3|A view of the Texaco fire from the river

Electricity was not the only modern amenity lost to the flood. The telegraph office, telephone exchange and airport were all forced to close. And even if large stretches of the railway line had not washed away, it would have been impossible for trains to approach Wuhan as 30,000 refugees were now living on the embankment.

Though the flood seemed to have deprived Wuhan of many recent technological innovations, in many respects it was a thoroughly modern disaster. It generated risks specific to an industrial city. Loose benzene barrels bounced around the streets, kerosene fire engulfed buildings, and electric shocks killed more than 50 people. Worst of all, the sewerage system – a key emblem of hygienic modernity – emptied the bowels of the city into the streets. Soon residents were in the grip of an unprecedented health crisis. Thousands of people would succumb to dysentery, cholera and other waterborne diseases.


4|The broken railway dyke at Dandongmen

But residents of Wuhan were not passive in the face of the disaster. China boasted a proud tradition of charitable activity, with philanthropists often funding services that were vital to the survival of disaster-stricken communities. In 1931, the business community in Wuhan raised a substantial fund for flood relief. Some of this money was used to construct a wooden walkway, allowing pedestrians to wobble over the flooded streets. Funds were also used to sponsor rice porridge kitchens, boats to distribute boiled water, and crews to dispose of corpses. Benevolent Halls played an active role in the relief effort, as did Buddhist monks who turned their temples into refugee camps. Traditional medical practitioners massaged the stomachs of starving people and distributed herbal tinctures to prevent exposure.

Later, when the official history of the flood came to be written, the government in Nanjing would depict itself as the heroic saviour of Wuhan, using modern governance to tackle a crisis. But it was traditional institutions that fed and cared for more than half a million people months before shipments of wheat and vaccines arrived in the city. 


5|A walkway constructed by Wuhan’s emergency relief committee

This is not to suggest that refugees relied solely upon the assistance of benevolent elites. Like most people affected by disasters, they took responsibility for their own survival. In rural areas, those who had lost their farms foraged for aquatic plants such as lotus, water chestnuts, and wild rice. In Wuhan, people survived by catching fish swimming through the city streets.

The flood may have been a disaster for humans, but it created excellent ecological conditions for other species. Frogs and turtles swam into inundated homes, while one cinema became home to a whole flock of ducks. Some of these species were harmful to humans. The mosquitoes and water snails that thrived in vastly expanded territories caused epidemics of malaria and schistosomiasis. Yet some of the aquatic species that flourished as a result of the flood offered a nutritional windfall for refugees, allowing them to supplement their dwindling diets.  


6|Refugees fishing in Wuhan

Reeds were another flood-resistant species that proved invaluable for refugees. Growing in large stands throughout this wetland region, reeds were a vital architectural material for the poor; they could be knitted together and stretched over bamboo frames to form instant shelters. Though hardly luxurious, these reed huts were both cheap and portable, allowing refugees to escape quickly when water levels rose – or when local communities proved unwelcoming. Refugees experienced both of these problems in 1931.

While some citizens of Wuhan treated displaced people with great generosity, others saw them as a threat to political and economic stability. The local military were convinced that communists were using the refugee crisis as a pretext to infiltrate Wuhan. They declared martial law and began patrolling the streets in sampans with mounted machine guns. Anyone suspected of looting or other subversive activities was executed on the spot. But even such draconian treatment could not quell the paranoia, and eventually soldiers expelled refugees from the city centre at gunpoint, relocating them to ill-prepared camps on the outskirts of Wuhan where thousands would die from disease.


7|Reed huts in a refugee camp on the banks of the Han river

Conditions could hardly have been more different for the relatively wealthy foreign population of Wuhan. Their exclusive concessions, located in one of the best-protected areas of the city, were among the last areas to be inundated by the flood. When the waters finally did arrive, foreign residents amused themselves by riding horses through the water or playing tennis on roofs.

But before long the novelty wore off. The flood stank, there was no electricity for lights and fans, and the price of vegetables and meat had become extortionate. The solution was to take a ferry to the foreign clubs in the northern part of the city. Unable to indulge in customary amusements – such as horse racing, polo and golf – club patrons stared out onto the flooded grounds, making idle chitchat and drinking. As the city’s ice factory had ceased working, they took their drinks neat while a large number of refugees congregated on the grandstand next to the stables a short distance away. Concerned club owners hired boats to transport their horses to Shanghai, and then petitioned the city authorities to have the refugees removed to preserve the hygienic wellbeing of club members.


8|The grandstand and the clubhouse at the Foreign Race Club

Those who whiled away their hours in the clubhouse were separated by little physical distance from those who sheltered in the grandstand, yet the experiences of these two parts of Wuhan’s population could hardly have been more different. It was as if they were living through two separate floods; one that caused mild inconvenience and boredom, and another that destroyed lives.

On some occasions, disasters can bring communities together, creating what the historian Greg Bankoff has described as “crisis solidarity”. Yet disasters are equally capable of amplifying societal divisions, laying bare the tensions that lie beneath the surface in normal times. Both of these processes were at work in Wuhan in 1931.

While the community was unified by charity and mutual aid, it was also divided by economic calculations and political violence. For refugees, these tensions were just as dangerous as the incessant rainfall and raging rivers. They established the social conditions that helped to translate a natural hazard into a humanitarian disaster. 

The photographs in this article were originally published in 漢口水災攝影 Hankow Flood Pictures, 真光照相館 Zenith Studios, Wuhan, 1931. Despite considerable effort, regrettably it has not been possible to locate the copyright holder for this collection.

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Lake Monona drops 5 inches, still above 100-year flood level

MONONA, Wis. – Lake Monona has dropped 5 inches in the last week, but water is still high, officials said Wednesday. 

The city of Monona said residents should keep their sandbags in place as Lake Monona is still 5 inches above the 100-year flood level

Dry weather is forecast through the weekend but rainy weather is expected to return next week. 

The city of Madison said it’s anticipated that the lake level will fall if sunny weather persists without rain for six more days. 

“We are in no way free of flooding concerns,” the city said in an update Wednesday. Any additional rain will tax the levels of Lake Monona the Yahara River and the storm sewer system. Residents and businesses in the isthmus area should not remove sandbags yet, the city said.

Once the flooding threat ends, Madison said there will be a curbside collection program for sandbags. 

The city also advised residents who have experienced flood damage to complete a 211 Wisconsin Disaster Report online at 211wisconsin.communityos.org/damage-report by Thursday. Reports can also be made by calling 211.

All three Monona boat launches at Winnequah Trail, Tonyawatha Trail and Lottes Park remained closed Wednesday until further notice, according to a news release. A slow, no-wake order also remains in effect.

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Flooding damage across state could qualify for FEMA aid, federal disaster declaration

Flooding damage across state could qualify for FEMA aid, federal disaster declaration

Flooding damage across state could qualify for FEMA aid, federal disaster declaration

MADISON, Wis. – River levels are dropping and cleanup and recovering efforts are starting across the state as dry weather continues, according to a release from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.

County emergency management offices are still collecting damage information from the historical rain and flooding that started Aug. 17, officials said. Homeowners and businesses impacted by the flooding or storms should call 211 or their county emergency management director this week so all information can be submitted to the state level by Monday.

Wisconsin Emergency Management has been sharing damage information with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and communicating the state’s need for federal disaster assistance, according to the release. WEM is compiling county assessments and looking at infrastructure damage to roads and bridges.

Damage assessments should be finished by next week and the results will help determine which counties could quality for FEMA aid, officials said.

After the final assessment, Gov. Scott Walker will make a request to FEMA to conduct an assessment, which is the first step in federal disaster declaration, according to the release. FEMA teams will come to Wisconsin later in September to meet with local and state officials, and review assessments. The preliminary assessment could take up to four or five days, officials said.

The information FEMA gathers will be used by Walker to request a federal disaster declaration, which is expected to be submitted in early October, according to the release.

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EDITORIAL: Be frugal: Lesser disaster assistance now can avoid costlier repairs later

The sudden rainstorms that caused widespread flooding throughout the Rio Grande Valley at the end of June took most people by surprise. Communities didn’t have enough notice of the storms’ severity in time to hand out sandbags, clean drainage systems or deplete resacas so they could take more runoff from the streets.

For the most part, we’re lucky the damage from the floods wasn’t more severe. But some local officials might be thinking, too bad it wasn’t.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied federal assistance to South Texas cities and counties to repair damage to roads, drainage systems and other infrastructure that the flooding caused. It says the amount of damage wasn’t enough to warrant the help.

FEMA’s assessment came to an estimated $18 million in damages to government

property and easements. The agency said it would not help unless the damages exceeded $36.7 million.

Local officials say the assessment was incomplete and missed several damaged roads as well as irrigation and drainage systems. School districts also reported significant damage to land, buildings and buses. The officials have requested another FEMA assessment.

If the initial assessment was incomplete, then of course a new review is warranted. But we also question why the federal agency would set a floor for disaster relief that would either leave damaged property unrepaired or inspire officials to look for ways to pad the damages in order to get more funding.

It seems more logical that the agency should be more willing to allocate smaller amounts, which would save taxpayers money and leave more funds in reserve for future claims elsewhere.

Denying the assistance now could lead to greater damage, and expense, later. An initial storm might

create cracks and small potholes in local roads.

But if they aren’t repaired quickly they will only get larger and further weaken the overall road’s integrity, especially when another storm hits.

And that’s a major consideration in the Valley, which lies within the Atlantic hurricane corridor. At this writing one storm system is churning in the Gulf of Mexico and four others in the Atlantic Ocean, with three of them headed our way.

We hope local officials are able to convince FEMA representatives to re-evaluate the areas affected by the June floods — especially in the mid-Valley, where some areas were underwater for weeks and damage to underlying structures might not become apparent until another major event strains the system.

More importantly, we hope federal officials come to see the prudence of making small investments early rather allow the damage to increase to the point that more expensive repairs are needed.

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Florence Flood Threat Heightened by Underinsured Homeowners

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., on Thursday as Hurricane Florence approaches the area.

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., on Thursday as Hurricane Florence approaches the area.


Photo:

Travis Long/Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.C.—Forecasters and government officials warned that the hours and days after Hurricane Florence strikes the Carolinas are likely to be devastating due to the storm’s large size and slow speed, concerns that are magnified by the region’s coastal development in recent years and homeowners’ lack of adequate insurance.

Though Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm as its wind speed slowed, that means the rain could linger for days, much like the rains of Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year that produced severe flooding.

Much of the growth in population and development in North and South Carolina has been in coastal areas. Yet fewer homeowners in the region own flood insurance than five years ago.

As of July 31, the latest figures available, the 134,306 policies in place in North Carolina from the National Flood Insurance Program represented a 3.6% decline from 2013. In South Carolina, flood policies were down 1.2%, to 204,342, according to an analysis of government data by The Wall Street Journal.

Standard homeowners’ insurance policies typically cover damage that can happen to a structure, but they exclude storm surges, other flooding and, in some coastal counties, wind damage. Homeowners must buy separate policies to get the excluded coverage. For flood policies, they typically buy from the U.S. government.

Consulting and actuarial firm Milliman Inc. estimates that fewer than 10% of the households likely to be affected by Florence in the Carolinas have federal flood insurance, based on the current storm footprint.

“Residents of these states are materially less prepared than they were in the past to deal with the financial consequences associated with major flooding events,” said Robert Hartwig, a risk-management and insurance professor at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.

The widespread lack of flood insurance and low savings balances could force thousands of homeowners to seek federal disaster assistance in the form of grants and loans, he said. A year after Hurricane Harvey left many Texans in dire financial straits, tens of thousands of uninsured or underinsured residents continue to struggle to repair flooded houses.

For homeowners without insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and federal government might provide only a fraction of what it will take to bounce back. “Suffice it to say that federal government assistance, especially when it comes to individuals, is not going to provide the necessary resources for people to get on the road to recovery,” said David Maurstad, chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Wind and Rain

Expected rainfall of 10 inches or more through Sunday

50% or greater chance for hurricane force winds

Potential storm surge through Sunday

6 ft.

3 ft.

1 ft.

9 ft.

Populated places

Florence’s path

VIRGINIA

NORTH CAROLINA

TENNESSEE

Winston-Salem

Raleigh

Charlotte

Fayetteville

Pee Dee

River

2 p.m.

Sunday

Wilmington

2 p.m.

Saturday

Columbia

2 p.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Saturday

SOUTH CAROLINA

GEORGIA

Charleston

Expected rainfall of 10 inches or more through Sunday

50% or greater chance for hurricane force winds

Potential storm surge through Sunday

9 ft.

6 ft.

3 ft.

1 ft.

Populated places

Florence’s path

VIRGINIA

NORTH CAROLINA

Winston-Salem

Raleigh

Charlotte

Fayetteville

Pee Dee

River

2 p.m.

Sunday

Wilmington

2 p.m.

Saturday

Columbia

2 p.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Saturday

SOUTH CAROLINA

GEORGIA

Charleston

Expected rainfall of 10 inches or more through Sunday

50% or greater chance for hurricane force winds

Potential storm surge through Sunday

1 ft.

3 ft.

6 ft.

9 ft.

Populated places

Florence’s path

VIRGINIA

NORTH CAROLINA

TENNESSEE

Winston-Salem

Raleigh

Charlotte

Fayetteville

Pee Dee

River

2 p.m.

Sunday

Wilmington

2 p.m.

Saturday

Columbia

2 p.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Friday

2 a.m.

Saturday

SOUTH CAROLINA

GEORGIA

Charleston

Expected rainfall of 10 inches or more

through Sunday

50% or greater chance of hurricane winds

Potential storm surge through Sunday

9 ft.

3 ft.

6 ft.

1 ft.

Populated places

VIRGINIA

Florence’s path

NORTH CAROLINA

Raleigh

Pee Dee

River

Charlotte

Wilmington

2 p.m.

Sat.

2 p.m.

Sunday

2 p.m.

Friday

SOUTH

CAROLINA

Charleston

GEORGIA

Source: NOAA

The Carolina coast began to feel tropical storm-strength winds on Thursday. The storm could make landfall in either North or South Carolina on Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Please do not let your guard down,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said at a news conference. “This is a very dangerous storm.”

The region’s ground already was saturated by rain prior to the storm. That means new rain will have nowhere to go, leading to more flooding that could send trees and power lines toppling.

On Thursday the storm already had cut power for thousands of residents.

Duke Energy
,

a large utility serving the Carolinas, estimated that nearly three million of its customers could lose power. It serves 4 million in the region.

“This is a situation where it’s not days but possibly weeks to get the lights back on,” said Howard Fowler, Duke’s incident commander for Florence.

In the port town of Morehead City, N.C., Len Gibbs of insurance and real-estate firm Chalk & Gibbs Inc. said some customers have opted to forgo flood insurance because of the cost, which has been rising in recent years.

“We’ve seen people who’ve gotten their mortgages paid off, and even if they are in a high-risk flood zone, they haven’t experienced flooding in their neighborhood, so they say, ‘I’m not going to pay thousands of dollars for this insurance,’” he said.

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the U.S., here’s what you need to know about the dangerous East Coast storm.

In one recent example, the owner of a large, elevated and expensive home in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., faced a $9,071 annual flood-insurance premium. “They said, ‘We’ll roll the dice’” at that price, which was up from $5,600 in 2006.

While it is unlikely that living quarters of elevated beach homes would be flooded, dangerous surges could knock houses off their pilings, Mr. Gibbs said.

Some 3.6 million homes in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina lie in coastal areas and are worth more than $1 trillion in total, according to Zillow. That value is up nearly $150 million over the last five years, as development and home prices have boomed.

North Carolina and South Carolina in particular have seen an influx of retirees and young families from the Northeast and California seeking more affordable homes. The median home value in Charleston, S.C., is almost $176,000—up nearly 32% from five years ago but still well below the national median value of $218,000, according to Zillow.

Most of the firms insuring these homes have excluded flood damage in their policies for at least 50 years, yet many homeowners learn they aren’t covered only after their property has been ravaged.

People with federally backed home mortgages are required to buy the additional flood coverage if they are in a designated high-risk area, but it is optional for everybody else.

Last year’s string of hurricanes—including Harvey, Irma and Maria—was a wake-up call to many people about the limitations of their policies. In the aftermath, policy ownership rose 3.6% in North Carolina and 2.8% in South Carolina.

Still, the buying spurt has been relatively muted and didn’t bring rates back to the 2013 level. Nationally, the number of policies has grown about 3% since last summer to 5.1 million across the 50 states, below the nearly 5.5 million policies held in September 2012.

In North Carolina, one of the 20 coastal counties appears much better prepared. Roughly 60% of estimated housing units in Dare County—part of the Outer Banks barrier islands—are covered by the government policies, according to the Journal’s analysis. In South Carolina, more than a third of housing units are covered in two of the eight coastal counties.

Write to Leslie Scism at [email protected].com, Coulter Jones at [email protected] and Valerie Bauerlein at [email protected]

Appeared in the September 14, 2018, print edition as ‘Florence Threatens Heavy Floods.’

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A Nuclear Plant Braces for Impact With Hurricane Florence

On March 11, 2011, a one-two, earthquake-tsunami punch knocked out the safety systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, triggering an explosion of hydrogen gas and meltdowns in three of its six reactors—the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Fukushima’s facility was built with 1960s technology, designed at a time when engineers underestimated plant vulnerabilities during natural disasters. In the US, 20 plants with similar designs are currently operating.

One of them is slated for a head-on collision with Hurricane Florence.

Duke Energy Corp’s dual-reactor, 1,870-megawatt Brunswick plant sits four miles inland from Cape Fear, a pointy headland jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean just south of the city of Wilmington, North Carolina. Brunswick has survived decades of run-ins with hurricanes, but Florence could be its biggest test yet. The plant perches near the banks of the Cape Fear River, which drains 9,000 square miles of the state’s most densely populated regions. Like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Florence is predicted to stall out for days, pounding the Carolinas with unrelenting amounts of water, leading to life-threatening storm surges and catastrophic flooding. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is projecting 110 mile-per-hour winds, waves as high as 13 feet, and in some places, up to 40 inches of rain.

Officials at Brunswick say the plant is bracing for the impending destruction. “We’re monitoring the meteorological conditions, and if we have certainty that the winds onsite will reach 73 miles per hour, then we’ll begin an orderly shutdown of the units,” said Karen Williams, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.

The company also brought in workers ahead of the storm’s landfall who will stay through its duration, sleeping on cots and blow-up mattresses, so that the facility has enough staff to handle multiple shifts. In the last few days they’ve been doing walk-throughs of the plant, inspecting diesel-powered backup generators and installing waterproof steel barriers on nine doors that house important safety equipment.

These precautions are relatively new for Brunswick. They’re part of a sweep of changes nuclear plants around the US have adopted post-Fukushima.

Following the accident in Japan, a task force of senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff used the lessons from that disaster to draft new rules for the US. When the earthquake’s tremors hit Fukushima, knocking out the electrical grid, the plant’s emergency diesel generators kicked in as expected to provide emergency power. It was the wave of water that hit 40 minutes later that damaged that backup equipment, plunging the plant into total blackout. Without power, operators lost the ability to pump water into the reactors, exposing the cores, and leading to the explosive meltdown. From this, the NRC’s big initiative to make US nuclear plants better prepared for such extreme events included the particular goal of making them less vulnerable to flooding.

“Every plant in the country was required to re-examine potential flooding hazards from any source—be it storm surge, intense rainfall, river flooding—with up-to-date models,” says Scott Burnell, a public affairs officer for the NRC. The Commission then compared the results of those reports to the plants’ flood protection features.

Duke predicted a maximum storm surge of 7 feet at the plant’s safety-related buildings. But the plant was originally designed to cope with only 3.6 feet of expected surge, according to the NRC’s 2017 summary assessment of Duke’s hazard reevaluation report, which has not been made public.

In a letter earlier this year, the NRC reminded Duke that the plant’s current design falls short of the reevaluated flood risks. According to Burnell, Duke has since submitted an assessment of how it will cope—including the use of those steel door reinforcements—which the NRC is still evaluating. “The review is not complete but there’s nothing in there to this point that causes us any concern,” says Burnell.

Duke’s Williams echoed the sentiment, saying that the company doesn’t expect any flooding damage at Brunswick, which sits 20 feet above sea level. “Our plant is designed to handle any kind of natural event, including a hurricane,” she said.

Storms can be unpredictable, however. Dave Lochbaum, who directs a nuclear safety watchdog group at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has spent a lifetime studying nuclear failures. Brunswick troubles him because in 2012, Duke found hundreds of missing or damaged flood protections at the plant, such as cracked seals and corroded pipes. According to the group, none of the NRC’s subsequent reports have mentioned repairs. “Hopefully they’ve been fixed,” says Lochbaum. “But we’ve not been able to confirm that with the available documentation.”

He credits Brunswick for following through on the NRC’s post-Fukushima orders to install additional equipment—pumps, generators, hoses, cables, battery-powered sensors—to maintain safe levels of cooling in the event the plant loses its connection to the grid and use of its emergency diesel generators. But Lochbaum points out that history proves such preparation might not be enough.

In its 2012 post-Fukushima review, Florida Power & Light told the NRC that flood protections at its St. Lucie plant on South Hutchinson Island were adequate, despite failing to discover six electrical conduits with missing seals in one of the emergency core cooling systems. Two years later, a freak storm inundated Florida’s central coast with record rainfall, flooding one of the plant’s reactors with 50,000 gallons of stormwater. The deluge submerged core cooling pumps, rendering them useless. Had the reactor faltered during the storm, the plant would not have been able to maintain a safe and stable status beyond 24 hours, according to an NRC notice of violation issued to FPL after the incident.

Something similarly freakish happened at Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One plant in March 2013. Workers were transporting a 525-ton generator during a maintenance outage when the rigging collapsed, sending it crashing through the floor, rupturing a fire main. Emergency systems began pumping water into the facility, causing flooding and damage to electrical components shared by both reactors.

“I’m not projecting that Florence is going to cause the next St. Lucie, or Arkansas,” says Lochbaum. But those incidents serve as a reminder that nuclear plants are vulnerable to extreme events, like superstorms. “The only two times we’ve been challenged by floods since Fukushima we’ve come up short-handed,” he says. “Both those plants thought they were ready, until they weren’t.”

Duke is also preparing five other nuclear plants in the projected impact area of the 400-mile-wide hurricane. The good news is that local residents have had ample warning. More than 1.5 million residents across North and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate their homes before the eye of the storm makes landfall later today.


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Hurricane Florence starts flooding parts of the Carolinas

The Category 2 storm’s outer bands lashed towns on the barrier islands and on some of the Tar Heel State’s rivers, as the center of the cyclone moved to make a possible Friday landfall.
In Morehead City, the rain and surf pounded the shoreline and took aim at the few boats still in the water. In New Bern, on the Neuse River, a CNN team had to keep shifting position in a park as the water kept rising until it was too dangerous to stay in the area.
A weather station in Atlantic Beach recorded a total of 12.73 inches for a 24-hour period.
Farther south, in Carolina Beach, the northern end of the town was being swamped as water crashed over the dunes.
Some areas also saw the first of the hurricane-force winds. At Cape Lookout there were sustained winds of 83 mph and gusts of 106.
“With this storm, it’s a Category 2 but the storm surge and the flooding is going to be that of a category 4,” CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray said Thursday night.
She said the momentum the storm has generated on its long trip across the Atlantic won’t go away just “because the winds decrease a couple miles an hour.”
While wind speeds dropped Thursday, forecasters reminded people that what makes Florence extremely dangerous are the potentially deadly storm surges, the expected mammoth coastal flooding and historic rainfall.
5 reasons why Florence is extremely dangerous and unusual

5 reasons why Florence is extremely dangerous and unusual

Florence is expected to go move slowly as it approaches North and South Carolina, whipping hurricane-force winds and dumping relentless rain at least through Saturday.
“It’s not going to take much in a lot of these areas to saturate the soil, so trees are going to come down really easily” and knock down power lines, said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center.

Latest developments

• Florence is getting closer: As of 10 p.m. ET Thursday, the center of Florence was about 70 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. The storm’s forward speed had slowed to 5 mph and forecasters were concerned it might have stalled.
How coastal development and climate change are make hurricanes more costly

How coastal development and climate change are make hurricanes more costly

• When is landfall? Florence’s center will approach the North and South Carolina coasts late Thursday and Friday. The actual landfall — when the center of the eye reaches land — will be Friday afternoon at the earliest, said Neil Jacobs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
• Widespread power outages: More than 102,000 homes and businesses are without power, the North Carolina Emergency Management agency said.
• River rising: A gauge in the Neuse River near the town of Oriental indicated the water was 4 feet over flood stage and more than 5 feet above normal levels.
• Many flights are canceled: More than 1,300 flights along the US East Coast have been canceled through Friday.

Millions either flee or prepare for mayhem

The tropical cyclone is expected to unload 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said. That’s enough to fill more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
In the North Carolina town of Rodanthe, on Hatteras Island, Rebecca Well Hooper shot video of the pier early Thursday afternoon.
“There is some damage … but it is still standing strong. There is overwash but nothing we are not used to,” she said.
Despite days of warnings to evacuate, some residents are staying put — even if they don’t want to.
Cheryl Browning lives with her husband and son, who has terminal cancer, in Richlands, North Carolina. They also have three dogs and three parrots.
Free lodging and other ways businesses are helping evacuees

Free lodging and other ways businesses are helping evacuees

Browning’s choice to stay in the hurricane warning zone wasn’t easy, she said, but she “could not find anywhere to go.”
“Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs,” she said. “Many that will accept them only allow one per room. And since we have three dogs and three parrots, they’re requesting us to purchase two to six rooms.”
And there’s no way her family could afford that — or the $1,728 per room another hotel quoted. Other residents have told CNN they’re not evacuating because emergency shelters won’t accept pets.

“Since my husband retired and my health declined, we have his retirement as an income. He is the only caregiver to me and my son,” Browning said. “So since we can’t find anything within our means … we’ve opted to stay.”
Her neighbors gave her the key to their house, which is two stories and might be safer from flooding, she said. It’s a kind gesture but doesn’t alleviate Browning’s fear.
“I’m not going to lie: I’m scared,” she said. “But I think it’ll be OK.”

Thousands bunk in shelters

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate and authorities urged them to get going before the streets become inundated.
“Inland flooding kills a lot of people. … Please keep that in mind,” and consider leaving soon, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said midmorning Thursday.
In North Carolina, Florence is expected to dump up to 40 inches of rain and storm surge will be high.
“Catastrophic effects will be felt outside the center of the storm due to storm surge,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday morning. “Tens of thousands of structures are expected to be flooded, and many more by rising rivers and creeks.”
In Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina, Mikey Zalloum of Uncle Mikey’s Brick Oven Pizza sweated as he worked feverishly to make pies Thursday night.
His bustling pizza restaurant is one of the few businesses open in the evacuated town.
Why is he open when the town is mostly evacuated? He said he has been through this many times in his 15 years in the Myrtle Beach area and that “nothing is going to happen.”
Mikey Zalloum makes pizza Thursday night at his Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, restaurant.

Mikey Zalloum makes pizza Thursday night at his Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, restaurant.

He said he usually doesn’t make the pizzas himself, but he was on Thursday because “everybody is scared,” including most of his staff.

Emergencies declared in several states

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday. Hurricane Helene is veering toward Ireland and Great Britain. And newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land soon.

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Who pays for damage to Richardson homes flooded by water pipe break? District says 'Not us'

The pipe was made by Gifford-Hill-American Inc. which dates back to a 1946 joint venture involved in building the Lake Kickapoo pipeline for Wichita Falls. Gifford-Hill-American has since changed ownership multiple times and now operates as part of Irving-based Forterra, which is part of California-based Thompson Pipe.

A spokesman with Forterra could not be reached for comment, though the district said “we notified Forterra and their representatives were on site during the repairs.”

The Richardson pipe was installed in 1981, the district said. That’s long before the late 1990s, when many of the homes in the area were built. The pipe has a typical life expectancy of up to 100  years, the district said.

So what happened?

“The cause of the pipeline break is unknown,” the district said, noting it has hired third-party firms to conduct a forensic investigation. “That investigation is expected to take months to complete.”

As part of the investigation, the district said it will be checking other pipes, a process that will begin in earnest during the winter months when demand is lower.

That could cost more than $1 million, said Tom Kula, the district’s executive director. Repair and cleanup in Richardson is expected to cost about $700,000.  Kula said he doesn’t expect the added costs to impact rates. 

The district acknowledged the burst pipe had never been inspected. The district has 20.2 miles of transmission pipelines in Richardson, from a number of different suppliers, and nearly 395 miles in its 10-county service area.

“Pipeline breaks like this one are very rare and an inspection on this pipe had not been done because it had no prior issues and was far from reaching its life expectancy,” the district said. “Maintenance is scheduled based on age or a history of failures.”

That left the homeowners facing a triple threat: They didn’t know the pipe was there, the pipes generally aren’t inspected unless they’re old or troublesome, and in the event of a catastrophic failure, the district says it’s not responsible.

Citing security reasons, the district declined to give The News a map showing the location of the pipes, but said consumers “who would like information about the proximity of district facilities or infrastructure for their specific addresses can contact the district directly.”

When Sylvester Lee and wife Martha became two of the first residents of the area in 1999, Lee specifically wanted to avoid things he thought might later be a hazard, such as overhead utility power lines. 

The Lees said they still are working with insurer The Hartford Co. to see what will be covered. But they fear years of accumulated belongings — from furniture to keepsakes — won’t be.

Sylvester Lee, who is “70-something” and semi-retired following a career at Raytheon, worries the uncovered costs might force him back to work.

“We don’t know what it’s going to cost to remedy this and have some normality at the end,” he said, adding that the couple has canceled a cruise planned to celebrate their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary.  “I’m not doing anything full time now but that may be in the future.”

On Thursday, he urged the board to “get past the sovereign immunity so that other families don’t have to go through this.”

The Lees and other residents spoke both wistfully and forcefully about fairness.

“If they’re allowed to do this without paying the homeowners,” Martha Lee said, “it could happen to anyone.”

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Tropical storm dumps rain on Hawaii while crossing state

Heavy rain and winds from a tropical storm downed trees, knocked out power and prompted evacuations of several homes on Hawaii’s Maui island but spared the state widespread damage before continuing out to sea.

Tropical Storm Olivia crossed the state Wednesday, making landfall on Maui and Lanai islands along the way.

Weather forecasters warned heavy rains would continue through Thursday but Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said he was hopeful the effects of the storm would be limited.

“It’s been an ordeal but we’re coming through this fairly well,” Arakawa said at a news conference. “I’m not seeing any really large areas of damage, no homes destroyed or flooded to any kind of extreme measures as we did in previous storms.”

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Olivia was more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu late Wednesday. It was moving west with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), just barely strong enough to qualify as a tropical storm.

The hurricane center said Olivia will likely weaken further and become a tropical depression by Thursday.

Maui County said several homes in Lahaina had to be evacuated because of rising waters in a nearby river. Another home in Waihee Valley was evacuated.

Kahulu Peltier-Yaw said she saw gushing water from an overflowing river blocking at least one part of eastern Molokai’s only highway. She said it’s common for the highway to become impassable when there’s heavy rain.

A flash flood warning was issued for Molokai island and Maui. A wind gust of 51 mph (82 kph) was recorded at the airport on the island of Lanai.

A rain gauge recorded 9 inches (22 centimeters) of rain at West Wailua Iki on Maui.

The storm, which was a hurricane earlier in the week, slowly lost power as it neared the state.

Forecasters cancelled a tropical storm warning for Oahu and Maui late Wednesday after the storm moved far enough south to put the islands out of range for stronger winds.

Matthew Foster, a meteorologist with the hurricane center, said moisture from Olivia will linger through Friday even though the wind threat has died. This, combined with an upper level system, may trigger heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms on Kauai, Oahu and possibly Molokai, he said.

Honolulu’s H-1 freeway flooded under similar circumstances two years ago after Tropical Storm Darby passed the state and dissipated, he noted.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell both said they were keeping an eye on the leftover moisture.

“We’re all being cautious. We all do need to be very cautious until tomorrow,” Caldwell said.

Schools, courts and government offices were closed in Maui County in preparation for the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent emergency teams and supplies to Maui ahead of the storm. The National Guard has mobilized personnel and trucks to the east side of Maui.

President Donald Trump has signed a disaster declaration for Hawaii, which will help FEMA respond, the governor said.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled flights by its commuter airline, Ohana by Hawaiian.

Public schools on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai were open.

Tourists, like Randy McQuay from Texas, weren’t letting the storm dampen their vacations. “No, coming from Houston we’re used to storms and hurricanes,” he said. “Didn’t expect to find one in Hawaii, but yeah we’re used to it.”

Solana Miller, who lives on Oahu’s North Shore, said she wasn’t too worried about Olivia.

She has leftover preparations from when Hurricane Lane passed near the state last month.

“We kind of just kept all the water and the cans of food and stuff,” she said, “so if anything really hits we’ll be fine.”

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