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Post-Florence: Vast Flooding Threatens Residents In Fayetteville


The winds and rains from Hurricane Florence have mostly passed through North Carolina, but for some cities, the worst is actually yet to come. For instance, Fayetteville, N.C. The Cape Fear River, which borders Fayetteville, is swollen from the storm's remnants, and this morning it is expected to crest. It could reach a record 62 feet. Massive flooding threatens Fayetteville, about 80 miles inland from the coast. The mayor of that city, Mitch Colvin, is with us this morning. He joins us now on the line. Mayor Colvin, thanks for being here.

MITCH COLVIN: Good morning. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm doing OK. How are you doing? How are you all doing down there?

COLVIN: Well, we're holding on. We are, as you said in your segment, we're preparing for the worst-case scenario, but praying for the best. So we'll see what happens today around 10 o'clock this morning.

MARTIN: Why 10 o'clock?

COLVIN: Well, the meteorologists had estimated that the river would crest sometime this morning, sometime between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. And so that'll give us an opportunity to see, you know, exactly what the status of things are and to see how we're looking. Yesterday, we had a lot of creeks that were flowing pretty heavily toward the river. So we don't know the outcome of that. And last night, had severe rain and flash flooding warnings, and so we'll see what the impacts are today.

MARTIN: Let's walk through the worst-case scenario. If the river does crest today as expected, what happens?

COLVIN: Well, we have areas in and around the river that will be subjected to severe flooding. We've attempted over the last several days to evacuate residents and to make it very clear that help may not be readily available from our first responders. And so a lot of people have taken heed to that warning. We also can anticipate if it crests at the levels that they were expecting, there may be some flooding as far as our downtown areas, which are the location of a lot of our city's operations and our county's operations. So we've got a plan B in case that is the case that we're dealing with. And so worst-case scenario, we'd have to relocate operations at City Hall and at the county, and so it would be, you know, quite significant to try to move things around like that.

MARTIN: So the river is expected to crest even higher than it did after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Were you around then?

COLVIN: Yes, I was. And I remember it vividly. And so the meteorologist had anticipated, you know, 6 to 8 feet higher than then which - Matthew did a lot of damage to our community at that time. But the positive side, if there's a silver lining to this, some of the areas that were flooded during Matthew had receded or had not been flooded this time. And so before Matthew hit us a couple of years ago, we had about 10 days of hard rain prior to the hurricane, and this was not the case this time. And so we're hoping that it may not be as substantial.

MARTIN: You said that most people have heeded the evacuation warnings. Do you have a grip on how many people are still left?

COLVIN: Well, there were about 2,800 households that we identified that we needed to connect with. We sent our fire department and police department door-to-door. So they actually connected with most of those households. And about 90 percent of the people they talked to had agreed to move, and so that was a good sign. Our shelters' numbers went up quite rapidly after the warnings and after the door-to-door, and we opened additional shelters to accommodate more people. So a lot of people took heed to it, and a lot of people were brought to reality because of the remembrances of Matthew.

MARTIN: And are you - where are you taking shelter?

COLVIN: Well, I live right here within the city, and so my area is not in a flood-prone area. However, we're watching it carefully. So my neighborhood is kind of elevated, and I'm not in that target area that was near the river. So hopefully we'll be OK. But I do have family members that are in and around those target areas.

MARTIN: Well, we will be thinking of you all, sending good thoughts your way. Mitch Colvin is the mayor of Fayetteville, N.C.

Thanks so much for talking with us, sir.

COLVIN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.