North Carolina Mayor On Florence Response

Sep 16, 2018
Originally published on September 16, 2018 10:00 am
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We're going to go now to Fayetteville, N.C., where the Cape Fear River is swelling past its banks from Florence. Authorities there are warning about life-threatening flooding and have ordered mandatory evacuations for about 2,800 households. We're joined now by the mayor of Fayetteville, Mitch Colvin.

Thanks for joining us, sir.

MITCH COLVIN: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell me what the situation is like in Fayetteville right now?

COLVIN: Well, we have a lot of people preparing and trying to make provisions as best they can. We have - we're in the middle of about a 15- to 20-inch expected rainfall. We fared pretty good with the hurricane or tropical storm from last week, but the flooding is now our issue. And so we're trying to impress upon individuals who are in the areas susceptible to flooding that they need to take higher ground and take precautions. And so we entered into a mandatory evacuation on yesterday, and we are sending our federal fire department and police department door to door to impress upon those people to comply.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are your big concerns?

COLVIN: Well, loss of life. You know, a lot of people are concerned with property and things, but those things can be replaced. And certainly, I'm not minimizing that. But, right now, life preservation is my No. 1 concern. About a year and a half ago, we went through a major flooding event that was related to Hurricane Matthew, and a lot of people in our state lost their lives. And we want to prevent that from happening this time. And so with the expected flood levels to exceed those of Matthew, we're really making an urgent cry for people to do that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you mentioned, there's a mandatory evacuation order in place. Does it look like people are leaving?

COLVIN: For the most part. We did hear that there's been an uptick in the number of people moving to our shelters. The police department, the fire department - they report pretty good responses when they encountered folks door to door. But you did have those that said they were not going to leave. And certainly, we can't make anyone leave their home. But we are being very blunt and candid with them to let them know that if you choose to do that, you will not have access to our first responders. And you need to make notification to your next of kin to let them know what your choices were.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The river is not expected to crest until Monday or Tuesday. You have, I think, about a dozen rescue teams stationed there in Fayetteville. Is your city prepared?

COLVIN: Well, we are as prepared as the organization can be. And I certainly am thankful to Governor Cooper, who's done a great job with staying in touch with us. And we are thankful to the many swift rescue teams and first responders that have responded to our area from across the country. And so we are as prepared as you can possibly be for something like this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I know you're in the middle of this right now, but how damaging do you think Florence could be for your community?

COLVIN: It has the potential to be extremely devastating. The areas that are subject to flood include our downtown district, including where city hall and our county operations are located. And so we're making provisions to relocate if necessary. But if flood levels peak at a certain point, we have a lot - number of things, businesses, as well as homes, that are in jeopardy. And so it has the potential to be very bad. And so we're trusting and hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just one last question, sir. I was reading about a town nearby to you, Hope Mills. There's a dam there that floodwaters may overtake. Is there a concern there for you?

COLVIN: Somewhat. They are an area that is in our - you know, close within proximity of our city. And so anything that impacts Hope Mills impacts us. And so our concern is there with the leadership. And we are having joint conversations with the leadership of our surrounding towns and communities to get a plan as to how we react to something like that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you so much, Mitch Colvin, the mayor of Fayetteville. We're thinking of you.

COLVIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.