Hurricane Florence could flood North Carolina's hog manure pits, taint drinking water

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Hurricane Florence‘s heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster in North Carolina, where waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies.

Computer models predict more than 3 feet of rain in the eastern part of the state, a fertile low-lying plain veined by brackish rivers with a propensity for escaping their banks. Longtime locals don’t have to strain their imaginations to foresee what rain like that can do. It’s happened before.

Homes are partially submerged near Tarboro, North Carolina, on Sept. 23, 1999, after the passage of Hurricane Floyd.Homes are partially submerged near Tarboro, North Carolina, on Sept. 23, 1999, after the passage of Hurricane Floyd.Joe Skipper / Reuters file

In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd came ashore near Cape Fear as a Category 2 storm that dumped about 2 feet of water on a region already soaked days earlier by Hurricane Dennis. The result was the worst natural disaster in state history, a flood that killed dozens of people and left whole towns underwater, their residents stranded on rooftops.

The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it. Rescue workers smeared Vick’s Vapo-Rub under their noses to try to numb their senses against the stench.

Florence is forecast to make landfall in the same region as a much stronger storm.

“This one is pretty scary,” said Jamie Kruse, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research at East Carolina University. “The environmental impacts will be from concentrated animal feeding operations and coal ash pits. Until the system gets flushed out, there’s going to be a lot of junk in the water.”

North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs — typically housed in long metal sheds with grated floors designed to allow the animals’ urine and feces to fall through and flow into nearby open-air pits containing millions of gallons of untreated sewage.

During Floyd, dozens of these lagoons either breached or were overtopped by floodwaters, spilling the contents. State taxpayers ended up buying out and closing 43 farms located in floodplains.

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To prepare for Florence, the North Carolina Pork Council says its members have pumped down lagoon levels to absorb at least 2 feet of rain. Low-lying farms have been moving their hogs to higher ground.

“Our farmers and others in the pork industry are working together to take precautions that will protect our farms, our animals and our environment,” said Brandon Warren, the pork council’s president and a hog farmer. “The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days. Our farmers take hurricane threats extremely seriously.”

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it would be monitoring nine toxic waste cleanup sites near the Carolinas coast for potential flooding. More than a dozen such Superfund sites in and around Houston flooded last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, with spills of potentially hazardous materials reported at two.

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Also of concern are more than two dozen massive coal ash pits operated by Duke Energy, the state’s primary electricity provider. The gray ash that remains after coal is burned contains potentially harmful amounts of mercury, arsenic and lead.

Since power plants need vast amounts of water to generate steam, their unlined waste pits are located along lakes and rivers. Some of the pits were inundated during past storms, including during Floyd and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

After a 2014 spill at a Duke plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge, state regulators forced the Charlotte-based company to begin phasing out its coal ash pits by 2029. Because that work was already underway, wastewater levels inside the ash ponds have been falling, Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said Tuesday.

“We’re more prepared than ever,” said Norton, adding that crews will be monitoring water levels at the pits throughout the storm.

The company is also preparing for potential shutdown of nuclear reactors at least two hours before the arrival of hurricane-force winds. Duke operates 11 reactors at six sites in the Carolinas, including the Brunswick Nuclear Plant located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The Brunswick plant’s two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all U.S. nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.

Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140 miles per hour and a 13-foot storm surge.

“They were safe then. They are even safer now,” said Kathryn Green, a Duke spokeswoman, referring to the post-Fukushima improvements. “We have backups for backups for backups.”

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Dealing with hurricane damage

It was a year ago when Hurricane Irma tore apart dealerships, storage buildings and marinas in southwest Florida and the Keys. As you read this, marine businesses in the Carolinas are bracing for Hurricane Florence and a predicted storm surge up to 13 feet, as well as disastrous flooding measured in feet.

Fortunately, dealers have had some time to heed warnings and apply lessons from Irma and Harvey. Damage seems imminent as far inland as Georgia and Virginia. Once Florence passes, what’s next?

Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit and an expert on small-business financing and financial technology, recently suggested in Forbes several ways to help businesses recover from a hurricane.

It’s given that damage from Florence will easily reach billions of dollars. According to Arora, even businesses with insurance likely won’t have all damages covered. This will be made worse by the confusion over coverage and the typically long wait to receive payment for claims determined to be covered.

“A major issue related to extreme weather events and insurance coverage — highlighted by Super Storm Sandy — was the distinction between whether damage was caused by wind or by storm surge,” Arora said. “Wind damage is generally covered in the policy, whereas storm surge or flood damage requires a rider to a policy holder’s coverage — or even a separate flood insurance policy.”

This distinction accounted for nearly half of all claims from Sandy being denied, totaling nearly $20 billion (regionally) in uncovered damage. If a business is in a flood zone, does it have flood insurance coverage?

Coverage notwithstanding, Arora points to possible recovery help from two major kinds of SBA disaster loans. For businesses impacted by natural disasters, these loans can be a lifeline. They have low interest rates and attractive repayment terms, and they can apply to various declared disasters.

For example, the SBA is providing loans for companies affected by the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii. Arora said more than $8 million in SBA disaster loans have already been approved for businesses recovering there. SBA funding can pay for repairs and replacement and/or help small businesses pay operating expenses to overcome economic injury.

More specifically, SBA’s business physical disaster loans can fund disaster-damaged property up to $2 million to qualifying businesses and non-profits. “The money can be used to fix or replace buildings, machinery and equipment, inventory and supplies,” said Arora. “In addition, businesses planning property improvements, such as installing a drainage system to help reduce the risk of future flooding, may qualify for an even bigger loan.”

SBA also offers economic injury disaster loans. “These are working capital loans to help small businesses meet their ordinary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of disasters,” said Arora. “These short-term loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period. Funding is determined by the actual economic injury suffered and the company’s financial needs, even if no property damage was sustained.”

Here are seven common-sense actions Arora recommends all businesses — boat dealerships and marinas included — should consider:

1. Check disaster declarations. The SBA has a Web page that lists areas under disaster declarations.

2. Document damage with photos and videos to accompany any claims.

3. Read your insurance policy and determine what’s covered.

4. File insurance claims quickly, as policies may require claims be filed within specific timeframe.

5. To cover expenses that insurance might not meet, consider an SBA disaster loan.

6. FEMA offers assistance with filing insurance claims, landlord issues and other problems for business operating in designated federal disaster areas.

7. Back up all records on computers.

We share a genuine concern for everyone facing Florence, and pray for unexpected favor in all ways for all those who are impacted.

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In face of flood damage, remaining uninvolved and indifferent won't work

By KAREN PARKER

County Line Publisher Emeritus

Ontario was eerily silent Sunday. Evidently exhaustion had caught up with everyone. Our fearless village employees had worked dawn to dusk since the day after the flood while residents, business owners and volunteers have attempted to wring the muddy Kickapoo out of everything they own.

I sat outside my office and took it all in. On such a lovely fall day, there ought to have been kids at the basketball court or maybe tossing a Frisbee in the square. The river should have been bustling with canoes and kayaks. Tourists should have been ambling through the park, reading the historical signs, admiring the flowers and perhaps firing up a grill for a quick lunch while the little ones engineered creations in the sand box.

Sometimes it is hard to get your head around it all. A few nattily dressed motorcyclists pulled into the Fastrip and starred morosely at the defunct pumps. I hope you boys had enough gas to get to the next town. We still have no definite assurance there will be a gas station in Ontario ever again.

A couple of tourists walked down Garden Street, snapping pictures of the ravaged Ontario Community Hall. To them, it looked like a hopeless wreck. To us, it is a question mark. Where will we have our Halloween skating party, our Old-Fashioned Christmas, our country music fests? It was the building that defined the town.

The overflowing dumpsters seem to have become a permanent part of the landscape. Dumpster by dumpster, the contents of nearly every business in the village was carted to the landfill. How many will be back remains a mystery. We have a bank and two bars. I guess the latter is good for drowning your sorrows, and the value of a bank without a town is problematic.

It is astounding how many Ontario residents who are high and dry remain unengaged in this epic disaster. Believe me, folks, that flood did not just wash away a pile of canoes. It washed away a lot of property value. Less value equals less taxes equals fewer dollars to invest in infrastructure equals a deteriorated town whose home values decline and may become difficult to sell. This is not a case of fetching a few canoes from the river, scraping up some mud and hosing things down. This flood will have long-term consequences for the entire village.

I hate to be a doomsday sayer, but being uninvolved and indifferent simply will not work anymore.

If it seems too overwhelming, allow me to remind you of the Ontario of 1937. That was when this little town was just coming out of the Depression, but still had the moxie to plunge into the fray and build a new high school and establish the Ontario Community Hall. Consider it a good test of our mettle if we can equal that earlier generation.

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In the Internet age, crowdfunding has become a popular method of raising money for good causes. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a number of sites have popped up in response to the weather disaster. I suspect that like the lottery, we see just enough success stories to keep hope alive.

But, like in any charitable enterprise, scammers are likely to appear on the scene. If you are directing money to individuals, that is considered revenue by the IRS and should be taxed as such. Sites such as GoFundMe keep 7–9 percent, which means if you donate $100, the recipient will likely get only $92.

No doubt it is a convenient way to give, and I set up a GoFundMe site for the Ontario Community Hall when we launched our fundraiser last spring. It is hooked directly to the Village of Ontario. We also still have a bank account, under the purview of the village, for Palen Park.

It takes more time to write a check and find an envelope but, in my opinion, serious donations are best sent to the village at P.O. Box 66, Ontario, WI 54651. You can always indicate if you want your donation to be directed to a specific cause, such as the Ontario Community Hall or the park.

♦ ♦ ♦

I’m sad to say that water does not enhance the value of books. My inventory now lies in a landfill somewhere. We did manage to save a few handfuls of “Always the River: The History of Ontario” and perhaps a box of “Indomitable Pluck: The History of the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail.”

“Under One Roof: The History of the Ontario Community Hall” could not swim to safety, and it too is gone. As that was just printed on a digital press, we likely will reprint small numbers if there is demand. The other two titles are gone for good. Such is life in a flood.

 

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Hurricane Florence May Lead To Thousands Seeking Federal Disaster Assistance Due To Lack Of Flood Insurance &

No insurance and a lack of savings may lead to thousands of homeowners seeking federal disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Florence, according to a risk management and insurance professor. The Wall Street Journal reports that the latest statistics indicate that there has been a decline in flood coverage policies in North and South Carolina, leaving thousands of people in the lurch should a flooding disaster strike.

“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, ownership was down 1.2%, to 204,342…”

A typical homeowner’s insurance policy would only cover the damage from storm-related events but would normally “exclude storm surge and other flooding damage.” For specific cover against flood damage, a homeowner would be encouraged to buy a flood policy from the U.S. government.

Professor Robert Hartwig from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business points out that residents from North and South Carolina may be less equipped to deal with disaster than in the past. He added that this trend of a lack of flood coverage is widespread in the U.S. and is exacerbated by the low savings balance of people across the country.

“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.’”

Hurricane Florence is said to be atypical from the normal hurricane due to its landing location, which makes it a hard case for insurance companies who try to predict where natural disasters will strike. In fact, the Carolinas have only experienced two hurricanes as strong as Florence. Hurricane Hazel struck in 1954 and Hugo in 1989, costing $15 billion and $20 billion respectively.

The second unusual factor is that it is predicted that she will slow down and gather more power and water, causing storm surges as more seawater is forced inland. This is when many predict that the actual damage will occur as heavy rains will wreak havoc.

However, at least one North Carolina county is said to be more prepared than the rest. Dare County boasts roughly 60% of its housing units having flood insurance policies from the government. South Carolina paints a much starker picture.

“In South Carolina, two of the eight coastal counties have coverage rates above a third of the estimated housing units.”

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Estimated flood damage in Elroy is $6.5 million

The city of Elroy suffered over 6.5 million dollars in damage during the recent flooding and storms, with nine homes at risk of being torn down due to flood damage.

According to Chief of Police Tony Green at the Common Council meeting held Sept. 11, the city has reported preliminary numbers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency of 1.9 million dollars of damage to residential property, 4.5 million dollars of damage to businesses, and $100,000 of damage to the city and infrastructure.

“We’re looking at nine homes that possibly need to be torn down,” Green said. “You’re looking at four houses on Lake Street, three houses on Franklin, and potentially two (houses) on Third Street, based on the damage assessments.”

Green relayed that Juneau County has reported 19.2 million dollars of damage in the private sector, 2 million dollars in damage for the public sector, and 1.5 million dollars for road systems.

“Obviously, this flood was worse than the 2008 flood,” Green said. “Hopefully we can get FEMA to get declared for a federal disaster and get some help in here before it gets too much further.”

“The night of the flooding we did evacuate approximately 20 people via boat,” Green continued. “Obviously, we had some great volunteers.”

The mayor and members of the city council thanked the community and members of the response team for their work during the flood.

“Thank you on flooding issues around the town,” Mayor Mark Stanek said. “The fire, EMS, not only ours but all other communities around the area.”

The sentiment was echoed by other members of the council.

“We’ve heard nothing but good about all you guys and how hard you worked,” said Terry Madden, council member. “Thank you.”

Council elections

Two members of the council will not seek re-election after serving out there current terms.

James Garvin, alderperson for district 3, announced that he would not seek re-election. Tessa Klipstein, alderperson for district 1, also announced her decision to not seek re-election.

Other business

The council approved:

  • Re-zoning of the property at 1502 Academy St., formerly the Cherry Tree Restaurant, from business to residential.
  • An operator’s license for Stephen Tosch for the Dollar General store.
  • A change in the personnel manual allowing for drag and/or alcohol testing under certain circumstances where a city motor vehicle is involved in a crash
  • City expenditures in the amount of $231,162.83.
  • City Administrator Carole Brown has received a request to allow chickens in backyards in Elroy. Madden informed the council of her intent to bring up chickens for discussion during the next meeting Oct. 9.

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In quake-prone Japan, attention shifts to flood risks as heavy rains increase

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese have long been conditioned to prepare for earthquakes, but recent powerful typhoons and sudden, heavy rains have brought to the forefront another kind of disaster: flooding.

Experts warn that thousands could die and as many as 5 million people would need to be evacuated if massive dikes and levees in low-lying eastern Tokyo are overwhelmed by surging floodwaters.

The cities of Osaka and Nagoya also face flood risks, experts say, amid an increase in sudden heavy rainfall across the country in recent years, a symptom linked to global warming.

“Japan’s major metropolitan areas are, in a way, in a state of national crisis,” said Toshitaka Katada, a professor of disaster engineering at the University of Tokyo.

In July, parts of western Japan were deluged with more than 1,000 millimeters (39 inches) of torrential rain. Gushing water broke levees and landslides destroyed houses, killing more than 200 people in the country’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.

“If this happened to Tokyo, the city would suffer catastrophic damage,” said Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director of the Japan Riverfront Research Center and author of the book “Capital Submerged,” which urges steps to protect the city, which will host the 2020 Olympics and Rugby World Cup games next year.

Particularly vulnerable are the 1.5 million people who live below sea level in Tokyo, near the Arakawa River, which runs through the eastern part of the city.

In June, the Japan Society of Civil Engineers estimated that massive flooding in the area would kill more than 2,000 people and cause 62 trillion yen ($550 billion) in damage.

Experts could not say how likely that scenario was. But in recent years, the government has bolstered the city’s water defenses by building dams, reservoirs and levees.

But the pace of construction is too slow, said Satoshi Fujii, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is known for pushing big infrastructure projects.

“They need to be taken care of as soon as possible,” he told Reuters.

John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the Tokyo 2020 Games, said the city should “take into account the potential for some of these disasters that seem to beset your country.”

In tacit acknowledgement that more needs to be done, the transport ministry late last month asked the finance ministry for 527 billion yen for levee reinforcement and evacuation preparation in next year’s budget. That’s a third more than the current year.

SURROUNDED BY WATER

Tokyo was last hit by major flooding in 1947, when Typhoon Kathleen inundated large swaths of the city and killed more than 1,000 people across Japan.

FILE PHOTO: A staff of metropolitan outer floodway management office looks around a pressure-adjusting water tank, part of an underground water discharge tunnel which was constructed to protect Tokyo and its suburb areas against floodwaters and overflow of the city’s major waterways and rivers during heavy rain and typhoon seasons, at the facility in Kasukabe, north of Tokyo, Japan August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A survivor from that disaster, 82-year-old Eikyu Nakagawa, recalled living on the roof of his one-story house with his father for three weeks, surrounded by water. He remembered a pregnant woman who had taken refuge in a two-story house next door.

“The baby could come any minute, but we could not bring a midwife to her or take her to a doctor,” he said. “I was just a kid, but I lost sleep worrying that she might die.”

A similar disaster today would be much worse, Nakagawa predicted, because the area around his house in Tokyo’s eastern Katsushika ward, once surrounded by rice paddies, is now packed with buildings.

“It’s going to be terrible,” he said. “Now it’s so crowded with houses. Little can be done if water comes.”

Intense rainfall is on the upswing across Japan. Downpours of more than 80 millimeters in an hour happened 18 times a year on average over the 10 years through 2017, up from 11 times between 1976-85.

Warming global temperatures contribute to these bouts of extreme weather, scientists say.

“Higher ocean temperatures cause more moisture to get sucked up into the air,” said University of Tokyo’s Katada. “That means a very large amount of rain falling at once, and typhoons are more likely to grow stronger.”

Just last week, western Japan was battered by Typhoon Jebi, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in 25 years, which killed at least 13 people and inundating the region’s biggest international airport.

EVACUATION NIGHTMARE

In late August, five low-lying wards in Tokyo jointly unveiled hazard maps outlining areas at high risk of flooding, and warned that up to 2.5 million residents may need to evacuate in case of a major disaster.

The maps, which will be available to residents online and via hard copy, show how deep floodwater would likely be for each area, and how long each area would remain underwater.

But such maps were largely ignored during the deadly flooding in western Japan in July.

If a disaster hits during weekday working hours, the number of evacuees could swell to 5 million, including those from neighboring wards, says Tsuchiya – a logistical nightmare. Tokyo prefecture has grown to 14 million people, with millions more in surrounding areas.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has called for a new ministry that would focus on disaster prevention and recovery. Currently that is overseen by the Cabinet Office, which handles other disparate tasks such as laying out basic fiscal policy and nurturing technological innovation.

Companies also are waking up to the danger of floods, said Tomohisa Sashida, senior principal consultant at Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting.

“We have been often approached for quake-related business continuity plans.” he said. “But now they realize they need to keep flood risks in mind and flood-related consultations are certainly on the rise.”

Slideshow (5 Images)

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kwiyeon Ha; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Gerry Doyle

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Hurricane Florence could flood hog manure pits, coal ash dumps in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence’s heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster in North Carolina, where waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies. Computer models predict more than 3 feet of rain in the eastern part of the state, a fertile low-lying plain veined by brackish rivers with a propensity for escaping their banks.

Some of the 200,000 people along the North Carolina coast are making their way inland Wednesday as authorities are ordering people in the Outer Banks to pack up and get out as Florence  nears, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

Longtime locals don’t have to strain their imaginations to foresee what rain like that can do. It’s happened before.

In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd came ashore near Cape Fear as a Category 2 storm that dumped about 2 feet of water on a region already soaked days earlier by Hurricane Dennis. The result was the worst natural disaster in state history, a flood that killed dozens of people and left whole towns underwater, their residents stranded on rooftops.

Tropical Weather Toxic Waters

In this Sept. 24, 1999, file photo, employees of Murphy Family Farms along with friends and neighbors, float a group of dead pigs down a flooded road on Rabon Maready’s farm near Beulaville, N.C. The hogs drowned from the floodwaters of the NE Cape Fear River after heavy rains from Hurricane Floyd flooded the area.

Alan Marler / AP

The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it. Rescue workers smeared Vick’s Vapo-Rub under their noses to try to numb their senses against the stench.

Florence is forecast to make landfall in the same region as a much stronger storm.

“This one is pretty scary,” said Jamie Kruse, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research at East Carolina University. “The environmental impacts will be from concentrated animal feeding operations and coal ash pits. Until the system gets flushed out, there’s going to be a lot of junk in the water.”

North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs – typically housed in long metal sheds with grated floors designed to allow the animals’ urine and feces to fall through and flow into nearby open-air pits containing millions of gallons of untreated sewage.

During Floyd, dozens of these lagoons either breached or were overtopped by floodwaters, spilling the contents. State taxpayers ended up buying out and closing 43 farms located in floodplains.

To prepare for Florence, the North Carolina Pork Council says its members have pumped down lagoon levels to absorb at least 2 feet of rain. Low-lying farms have been moving their hogs to higher ground.

“Our farmers and others in the pork industry are working together to take precautions that will protect our farms, our animals and our environment,” said Brandon Warren, the pork council’s president and a hog farmer. “The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days. Our farmers take hurricane threats extremely seriously.”

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it would be monitoring nine toxic waste cleanup sites near the Carolinas coast for potential flooding. More than a dozen such Superfund sites in and around Houston flooded last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, with spills of potentially hazardous materials reported at two.

Also of concern are more than two dozen massive coal ash pits operated by Duke Energy, the state’s primary electricity provider. The gray ash that remains after coal is burned contains potentially harmful amounts of mercury, arsenic and lead.

Since power plants need vast amounts of water to generate steam, their unlined waste pits are located along lakes and rivers. Some of the pits were inundated during past storms, including during Floyd and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

After a 2014 spill at a Duke plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge, state regulators forced the Charlotte-based company to begin phasing out its coal ash pits by 2029. Because that work was already underway, wastewater levels inside the ash ponds have been falling, Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said Tuesday.

“We’re more prepared than ever,” said Norton, adding that crews will be monitoring water levels at the pits throughout the storm.

The company is also preparing for potential shutdown of nuclear reactors at least two hours before the arrival of hurricane-force winds. Duke operates 11 reactors at six sites in the Carolinas, including the Brunswick Nuclear Plant located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The Brunswick plant’s two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all U.S. nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.

Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140 miles per hour and a 13-foot storm surge.

“They were safe then. They are even safer now,” said Kathryn Green, a Duke spokeswoman, referring to the post-Fukushima improvements. “We have backups for backups for backups.”

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11 jobs that go into overdrive when a natural disaster strikes

With Hurricane Florence set to deliver a devastating blow to the Carolinas beginning late Thursday morning through the weekend, residents there are bracing for the worst. But while many homeowners are boarding up windows and stocking up on food and water, thousands of workers across a number of industries are in overdrive, helping to serve, protect, save, restore and relieve the communities that will be affected by the storm.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 2 hurricane — one of the strongest storms on the Eastern Seaboard in decades — is expected to produce winds topping 80 mph, and “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall” could push water inland at heights of up to 20 feet along the coast, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, as initially thought, the storm’s center is now predicted to pivot southward and move across the middle of South Carolina, making landfall on Saturday.

Because of Florence’s predicted path — which is perpendicular to the coast rather than at an oblique angle — the strong winds from the east and southeast will cause extensive storm surge flooding. According to data analytics firm CoreLogic, more than 750,000 homes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are at potential risk of storm surge damage. The firm estimates threats to real estate will total about $170 billion. That would make Florence the costliest storm ever to hit the United States in terms of property loss.

What’s disturbing, however, is the fact that two-thirds of American homeowners have no idea what to do in the event of a disaster, according to a new survey by Belfor Property Restoration. What’s more, only 7 percent of respondents listed hurricanes as their top concern when it comes to natural disasters; most cited tornadoes (25 percent) and fires (20 percent). And even though floods are the most common and costly natural disaster, only 8 percent of respondents listed flooding as a top concern.

“It was shocking to find the results of Belfor’s disaster preparedness survey showed U.S. homeowners are lacking the resources and awareness to prepare their homes, businesses and families for devastating situations,” said the company’s CEO, Sheldon Yellen. He says that most often, residents fail to clear storm drains of debris; turn off electricity, gas and water before evacuating; gather important paperwork and documents and move them to higher ground; and secure outdoor furniture and other lawn items that could become flying objects in strong winds.

Fortunately, with about five hurricanes striking the United States coastline every three years, there are people ready to spring into action when storm surges, flooding and high winds threaten.

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Walker requests FEMA conduct flood damage tour

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker is asking federal emergency management officials to survey Wisconsin flooding damage later this month.

Walker’s office issued a news release Thursday saying the governor has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a preliminary assessment beginning Sept. 24.

The move is the first step in requesting a federal disaster declaration.

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'Wisconsin families are hurting': Walker takes first step toward federal disaster declaration

MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker has taken the first step toward requesting a federal disaster declaration in connection to the flooding and tornado damage across the state. 

In a news release Thursday, Walker administration officials said the governor has requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a preliminary damage assessment in Wisconsin      

Walker said he is hoping to get federal disaster relief as soon as possible to help hurting families. 

“Many Wisconsin families are hurting following the devastating flooding and tornado outbreak that has impacted our state in the last three weeks,” Walker said in the release. 

Teams from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration will coordinate with state and local emergency management officials beginning the week of Sept. 24 to view major damage to homes and businesses as well as public infrastructure such as roads, dams and bridges. The assessment will take about a week. 

After the assessment, Walker can use the information in a request to President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration. 

Walker is asking homeowners and businesses to report any storm and flood damage to 211 or contact county emergency management by Friday. The information will be submitted to Wisconsin Emergency Management over the weekend. 

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