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Carolinas And Virginia Prepare For Hurricane Florence


Life-threatening storm surge - that is one prediction from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, which is watching Hurricane Florence move closer and closer to the East Coast of the United States. This is the warning from North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper.


ROY COOPER: This storm is a monster. It's big, and it's vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don't bet your life on riding out a monster.

GREENE: All right, a serious warning there. Now, what forecasters are saying could be different with Florence is the flooding, especially if the storm just stalls over coastal communities and keeps dumping rain. Florence is a Category 4 hurricane right now. NPR's Greg Allen is awaiting the storm's arrival on the Carolina coast. He's in Wilmington, N.C. Hi there, Greg.


GREENE: All right, let's start with the evacuations. We have more than a million people along the Eastern Seaboard who are under mandatory evacuation orders. The big question I have - are they complying? Are they leaving?

ALLEN: Oh, I think so, yes. I mean, we've seen in South Carolina, they ordered mandatory evacuation in all those coastal counties. And they've got, you know, the contraflow going, so the roads are going one way - going inland. And the people do seem to be taking advantage of that and going. Here in North Carolina, the mandatory evacuations have been for the barrier islands, for the beach communities. It's kind of a different system here, but people are taking it seriously, and they are going. We have a little bit more time now. It looks like the storm might not be arriving until Saturday morning. However, we'll start getting real strong conditions tomorrow - tropical storm rain. So authorities are saying they should - people should do it today.

GREENE: We often talk about the Outer Banks when a storm is taking a track like this in North Carolina. I mean, this is where residents, tourists rely on those - that handful of bridges and ferries to get to the mainland. Authorities are telling residents there to just get out immediately. I mean, is that going smoothly? And where are they going?

ALLEN: Well, I think so. I mean, you know, as you know, the barrier islands - it takes quite a while to get off of the islands. And you're so exposed. You're so far out to sea there, out in the ocean. Yesterday, the transportation authorities said that the ferries would stop operating today. I'm thinking that with the storm being delayed a little bit, they'll probably take their time to actually end the ferry service until it's clear that everyone is off the - off the islands that are served by the ferries. But they even - as I was understanding yesterday, there was some overwash from - on some of the roads. So, you know, you don't want to wait because as the storm surge - the tide starts to come in, the seas rise a little bit in advance to the storm. It gets very difficult to drive out. So I think people are taking it seriously.

GREENE: And remind me, you're a bit farther south, right? In the city of Wilmington, which is not under evacuation?

ALLEN: That's right. I mean, in North Carolina, it's a different system than South Carolina. It's not done by the governor here. It's done - the evacuation orders are done by local authorities. And really, evacuations are done to get people out of low-lying areas that are at risk of flooding. And we have a significant risk of flooding here, as you were saying. The storm right now is going to be stalling - is expected to stall as it reaches the coast. And it could start to actually drift south toward South Carolina, maybe into Georgia, bringing significant rainfall. They're talking about 20 to 30 inches of rain in some areas. And that's the real concern - is that flooding issue. And that's why they evacuate people. It's water that they're worried about - getting people away from that.

GREENE: I just want to ask you, Greg - President Trump yesterday was touting how his administration responded to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, saying it was an incredible, unsung success. You covered that storm, right? You probably have some reflections from that.

ALLEN: Right, and I covered Katrina. He compared this - he said, oh, this is nothing like Katrina. (Laughter) And of course, you know, the death toll, as we know now, was significantly greater - you know, 50 percent greater - 3,000 as opposed to 2,000. And the people - you know, no power for up to a year - for six, nine months for some people. We saw nothing like that in Katrina. So it really was a real problem there. But, you know, that's for others to judge - the president's, you know - how he looks at this. But anyone who was on the ground there knows that it was not a success.

GREENE: NPR's Greg Allen. Thanks a lot.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

GREENE: And we'll have the latest on the storm on the radio and online. And we should say, if connections are spotty for you - if you're in the path of the storm - you can access a lightweight version of our website by going to thin.npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.