North Carolina residents Nathan and Samantha Harvey walked by dead fish to get to their house after floodwaters receded in Wilmington.
The couple returned home Thursday for the first time since Hurricane Florence hit, and it was nothing like they remembered it. Dirty water splotched the once white walls like paint, with a brown line at 6 feet marking the height of the flooding. Pieces of hardwood floors and furniture lay scattered on the soggy, puffy carpet.
Just above the brown water line on the wall, their wedding photos sat untouched, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dreary homecoming.
“It is so hard to see it this way, we have been researching how to clean it up,” Nathan Harvey told CNN affiliate WECT. “We knew it would be a mess, but this is … so discouraging.”
Rivers are still overflowing
Wilmington residents are slowly coming home to a new reality after swollen rivers and flooding from Florence cut off the city of 118,000.
But two weeks after Florence slammed the Carolinas coastline, overflowing rivers are still a concern as they make their way to the ocean. South Carolina officials say Georgetown County, where Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers join other rivers on their way to the Atlantic Ocean, is especially at risk. The Waccamaw River is expected to crest Friday morning, according to spokesman Ryan Dickinson of the Coast Guard.
“The major concern for this crest is that this is the highest point that the river will rise to before it starts to fall back to below the record,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said Friday.
“With the peak of flooding, there is chances for low lying areas to become flooded. It can also continue to impact roads that are used to bring supplies to people. ”
The cresting is a result of flooding waters from small creeks flowing into large rivers, a process that can take days.
Georgetown dodged the brunt of Florence’s ferocious winds, but it sits at the mouths of the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers, making it especially vulnerable to flooding.
The Waccamaw River had swollen to record levels upstream, and in some areas water was headed downstream at historic levels.
Coast Guard crews have dispatched shallow water response boats in case they need to evacuate people in Georgetown and Myrtle Beach.
“During Matthew it crested around 14 feet, and we are preparing for it to crest possibly higher than that,” Dickinson said.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents to be on alert for high water even as rivers recede and more roads open.
Coastal waters are loaded with pollutants
Overflowing rivers and flooding concerns are not the only problem. The murky waters of the Florence aftermath are loaded with bacteria, viruses and other pollutants.
Officials are warning residents to stay out of contaminated coastal waters to avoid infections such as earaches, hepatitis, skin rashes and respiratory issues, the North Carolina Coastal Federation said.
“The public continues to swim in the ocean and sounds despite these advisories,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the federation. “We feel it’s vital to let people know that the state has not yet tested any waters to determine if they are safe for human contact.”
Cooper said flooding has increased the population of mosquitoes, which can bring illnesses such as encephalitis, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis. He’s ordered $4 million to help fund mosquito control in affected counties.