Rising Waters

September 28, 2018
LANDFALL A satellite image shows Hurricane Florence churning its way toward the East Coast on September 13.
NOAA/GETTY IMAGES

Flooding continues in the southeastern United States after Hurricane Florence. Hurricane Florence barreled in from the Atlantic Ocean. It landed in North Carolina on the morning of September 14. It wasn’t 90-mile-an-hour winds that officials feared most. It was water. The storm brought heavy rain and a 10-foot wave of seawater. Roads buckled. Trees toppled. More than 600,000 homes and businesses on the East Coast lost power. And it was just beginning.

By afternoon, the winds had slowed. Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm. But as it moved west, it dumped massive amounts of rain on North and South Carolina. In two days, North Carolina got more than 30 inches of rain. The National Hurricane Center said the aftermath would be “catastrophic.”

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper surveyed the damage in his state by helicopter on September 15. “Floodwaters are still raging,” he said afterward. “The risk to life is rising.”

SHIPWRECKED Days after the storm, a boat lies smashed against a garage where powerful winds lifted it on shore.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA—GETTY IMAGES

Rescue Mission

When skies cleared on September 17, residents were desperate for help. Floodwaters trapped people in attics and on rooftops. Federal and state authorities rescued hundreds of people by helicopter, boat, and heavy-duty vehicle.

Some areas would remain underwater for days after the storm. “Rivers and streams that have already flooded areas may continue to rise as more water flows downstream,” Chris Vaccaro, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told TIME for Kids.

Victor Merlos, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was thrilled to find an open store. He bought food for about 20 relatives staying in his home. “I have everything I need for my whole family,” he told the Associated Press.

HELPING HANDS As rain continues to fall, volunteers rescue residents and their pets from flooded homes.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA—GETTY IMAGES

President Donald Trump has made millions of dollars in aid available for storm victims. They will need the help to rebuild. Brock Long is head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He spoke with NBC’s Meet the Press. “Recovery is always a very frustrating process for people when they’ve lost their livelihoods,” he said. “But we’re going to be okay.”

Super Storms

A storm more ferocious than Florence lashed the Philippines, in Southeast Asia. On September 15, Typhoon Mangkhut tore through the northern part of the country. It brought winds of around 165 miles per hour. Mangkhut was equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. (Florence was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit the U.S.) “It can lift cars,” weather forecaster Rene Paciente told reporters in the capital, Manila. “You can’t stand, or even crawl, against that wind.” As of press time, landslides and building collapses had killed at least 74 people in the Philippines. Dozens more were missing.

WINDBLOWN A woman in the Philippines holds on to her umbrella during Typhoon Mangkhut’s heavy rain.

NOEL CELIS—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Mangkhut continued its path of destruction. It swept into southern China. More than 2.4 million people in Guangdong Province were evacuated. Many took refuge in shelters. An 11-foot surge of seawater swamped the coast. Winds knocked down trees. The South China Morning Post reported that parts of Hong Kong were waist-high in floodwaters.

Gabriel Vecchi is a climate scientist at Princeton University, in New Jersey. He says we will see both more-intense storms like Mangkhut and wetter storms like Florence. The reason: The burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet.

Stop & Think! What other coverage have you read or seen about the events in this article? How is it the same or different from what you are reading here?

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