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National

North Carolina Continues To Feel Effects Of Hurricane Matthew

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Matthew is no longer a hurricane, and its winds and rains are no longer near the U.S. But the danger in Southeastern states has not gone away. In fact it's expected to increase in some areas. Flooding is a problem in North Carolina. Many roads and bridges remain closed, and at least 10 people died there. Jay Price of member station WUNC is in Lumberton, N.C. And Jay, where exactly is Lumberton, and what do things look like there?

JAY PRICE, BYLINE: Well, it's down in the southeast corner of the state on I-95, straddles I-95 not long before you reach the South Carolina border. And it's flooded. I mean it's really bad there. I tried to come in several ways when I came into town, and I-95 is shut down as it goes through the city. And they're rerouting traffic all over the place. And I-95 is shut down north of here as well, so it's just a real mess on the interstate getting anywhere close to this place.

And parts of downtown are flooded, and as I came in, I came in right behind a kind of convoy of swiftwater rescue teams with rubber boats to help with the evacuations that are going on now.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell how high the water is or how high it was at its peak?

PRICE: The river is still really high. It peaked at a record 2 feet above the last record and topped a levee. There's some dispute now about whether it actually broke the levee, but that's kind of unimportant. It got over it. And so you're dealing with just massive amounts of water. And you know, of course the waters differ in different places, but I've been to places now already where it's over the roof of cars and higher.

SHAPIRO: What's the biggest challenge for rescue crews right now?

PRICE: They're evacuating a lot of people by air, by helicopter. You know, that's obviously always a challenge. The weather's great, picture perfect in fact. It's kind of startling and really is kind of an ironic juxtaposition to, you know, kind of the misery that folks are suffering here.

SHAPIRO: What are the problems like outside of Lumberton in other parts of the state and other parts of the Southeast?

PRICE: Well, you know, the problem is this - is that where there's flooding, that water is going to move downstream obviously, and it's going to cause flooding further downstream. So there are communities right now bracing. There are cities bracing for peak floods later in the week, as late as Friday in some places. And nobody quite knows how bad it's going to be in some of these communities, but they know it's going to be at or close to record levels.

SHAPIRO: Why has the flooding been so widespread and so intense? Did the hurricane really just dump that much rain in a short time?

PRICE: Huge amounts, in places much more than a foot - 15 inches. And it was falling on soil that was already saturated. This is much like Hurricane Floyd in 1999. There was a tropical storm that came through just before that, saturated the soil. And so the water just has nowhere to go.

When I drove in, I was for miles and miles, you know, nowhere near any river. There were yards; there were fields flooded. And it was just because the soil was saturated and couldn't really accept any more water, so now it's just rising everywhere.

SHAPIRO: That's reporter Jay Price with member station WUNC speaking with us from Lumberton, N.C. Thank you, Jay.

PRICE: Sure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.