Thousands of people in the Carolinas are being told to plan on leaving their homes as rivers crest following Tropical Storm Florence’s nearly week-long pummeling of the East Coast.
Nearly 8,000 people in Georgetown County, South Carolina, were being urged to prepare to evacuate potential flood zones ahead of 10 feet of flooding in the area, county spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said in a statement Monday. Other officials shared similar messages.
“From boots on the ground to technology that we have, we are trying to be able to get the message out,” Georgetown County’s emergency management director, Sam Hodge, said in a video message posted online. Akers and Hodge’s warning come as rivers begin to overflow.
Five river gauges in North Carolina still showed major flood stage levels and five others were at moderate flood stage, according to a report Monday from the National Weather Service. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest and remain at flood stage throughout the week. Other hazards are making conditions in the Carolinas dangerous.
Overflow from Lake Sutton caused a breach of a steel dam designed to keep more than 30 inches of water separated from an adjacent coal ash dump. Duke Energy, the company that oversees the site, could not rule of the possibility on Friday that some of the chemicals from the dump have escaped into the Cape Fear River.
Coal ash — the residue that’s left over when a coal-fired power plant produces energy — can contain toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium. The residue is heavily regulated by the federal government, but the Trump administration has opened the door for state governments to manage their own coal ash waste if strict guidelines are met. (RELATED: Heavy Rains From Hurricane Florence Cause Coal Ash Spill)
The coal ash deposit near Wilmington, North Carolina is leftover residue from the coal-fired Sutton Plant, a 575 megawatt facility that retired in 2013 and has since been replaced by a gas-fired plant. Duke Energy employees have been monitoring the plant’s coal ash since Hurricane Florence hit the Carolina coast.
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