In North Carolina, Florence Fatigue Sets In

11 hours ago
Originally published on September 17, 2018 10:24 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's a little bit of hurricane history. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina came ashore, there was a brief period when it seemed like New Orleans had just barely escaped the worst. Of course it took time for the water to flow, exposing disastrous holes in the city's defenses. We mention this because Hurricane Florence has come ashore and is no longer a hurricane, but we do not know the full damage its rain may cause. NPR's Brakkton Booker reports from Kinston, N.C.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says Florence has never been as dangerous as it is right now.

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ROY COOPER: Floodwaters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters.

BOOKER: The town of Kinston in Eastern North Carolina sits along the Neuse River. When Florence passed by as a Category 1, it flooded parts of the city. The Neuse is already well-above flood levels. It's supposed to rise even more later this week.

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BOOKER: Carey Cheshire is coming out of a home improvement shop, grabbing a generator for a friend. He lives right by the river and is nervous about his chances his house could take on water.

CAREY CHESHIRE: I don't know. I mean, I'd say it's a 50-50 shot on that 'cause right now, there's already a house down our road that's already been flooded. So it's just whichever way the water goes, I reckon (laughter).

BOOKER: If up to him, he'd flee. But...

CHESHIRE: My mom won't leave out of there. And she's stubborn, you know?

BOOKER: Are you planning to - try to ride this out there?

CHESHIRE: I'm going to have to. I ain't going to leave my mama there stranded.

BOOKER: Others are tired of being cooped up in their homes. Here on River Bank Road, a steady stream of spectators comes to snap pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hmm-mmm-mmm-mmm (ph).

BOOKER: As far as the eye can see, there's brown, murky water blocks away from where it should be. Lashieka Becton surveys what's now in Neuseway Nature Park.

LASHIEKA BECTON: Lots and lots of water. Like, you can't even see the swings anymore. You can't see the parking lot anymore. Just, I don't know what to think.

BOOKER: Most people aren't worried about this happening to their homes. It's this type of complacency that has Craig Hill worried. As chairman of Lenoir County Commissioners, part of his job is to notify residents that a flood is coming. And it could be life-threatening.

CRAIG HILL: They think that every storm is the same. Every storm is different. The river has responded differently than any other time before. So we are concerned that people will not heed the warnings that are out there.

BOOKER: A couple of blocks away from the Neuse River and on higher ground is Mother Earth Taproom. It's here I meet Tori and Wes Hazelgrove. They're both educators, but won't be back at work until this new round of flooding passes through because schools aren't open.

TORI HAZELGROVE: There's a lot of hype with this storm. I mean, there should be for sure. But I mean, it downgraded from a Category 4 to a 1, I think, by the time it actually hit us. And it's so slow that it affects for a lot longer.

BOOKER: Her husband Wes says he's been prepping for five days, and it's taking its toll.

WES HAZELGROVE: So we're just kind of in a period of, like, waiting, to see, like, how bad is it going to get. It's like a period of being kind of in limbo.

BOOKER: For now, they say, the beer is helping to take the edge off.

Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Kinston, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEQUERBOARD'S "THE SORROW BIRD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.