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Hit Hard By Florence, Areas Of The South Struggle To Get Supplies


Now, let's hear the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. NPR's Brian Mann has been driving through some of the hardest hit areas of North Carolina.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: It's late afternoon, and I'm standing at a Mobile gas station in Wilmington, N.C., and there are about 50 cars backed up here trying to get gasoline. It has been incredibly difficult for people in this part of the South to get basic supplies after Florence hit.

JOSEPH CHURCH: What do I need now? I need gas and oxygen for Mama.

MANN: Joseph Church is trying to get gas for his car and for his generator so he can get his mom's medical equipment going again.

CHURCH: Been sitting here five hours and Mama at the house need oxygen with no power.

MANN: I spent Monday driving through a big chunk of coastal North Carolina and saw people everywhere like Joseph Church searching for gas or a place to sleep or a hot meal. A lot of them said they were sleeping in their cars. They have nowhere to go or can't figure out how to navigate the maze of flooded highway.

DONNA STAMM: OK. Canned food's in the middle aisle. Here you go. Here's a flashlight if you want one.

MANN: It felt like a miracle when I found a store open. Donna Stamm was running her convenience store in Wilmington without electricity until supplies run out. She told me more help is needed fast.

STAMM: I think we need FEMA here. We really do. There's a lot of damage. I mean, we need first responders out here. We have no power in certain areas, and people are hungry.

MANN: There are a lot of police and fire crews out on the highways and lineman trucks everywhere trying to restore power. But the rain is still falling in squalls over this vast area. There are so many people in need who say they don't know where to turn. I met Elizabeth Whitener and her husband, Don - seniors stranded in St. Pauls, N.C. - in a hotel room without electricity or Internet or air conditioning. They don't know when they'll be able to go home.

What are conditions like here?

ELIZABETH WHITENER: Oh, you know, it's (laughter) - we've been here since Wednesday so (laughter)...

MANN: A little stir crazy.

E. WHITENER: Yeah, a little stir crazy. We have one light (laughter).

DON WHITENER: We've been playing Scrabble. That's - that'll tell you something.

MANN: Scrabble.

E. WHITENER: (Laughter).

MANN: Meanwhile, supplies in many areas are running low. Down the road from St. Pauls in Lumberton, I found James Hodge working to salvage canned goods from a grocery store he runs not far from the flooding Lumber River.

JAMES HODGE: They're saying the rain's going to continue. I would say another three or four days before even the water goes down. And our problem is we're going to be running out of merchandise, and the trucks won't be able to supply us.

MANN: For a lot of people I talked to, this moment is baffling and terrifying. Kevin McGirt from Wilmington is disabled. He gets around in a wheelchair. Now, after Florence, he's homeless.

KEVIN MCGIRT: Well, I was at home, and the next thing I know, a big tree - oak tree - falls through my house to total my place. So now it's left me with really nowhere to go.

MANN: So what do you do next?

MCGIRT: No, seriously, I don't know where to start from here. I really don't know what to do, so hopefully I'll get some information on that.

MANN: It's amazing how often I hear this from people. They want the roads reopened and the power back on and safe shelter, but they also want reliable information about when help will arrive and what the next chapter of their lives after this storm will look like. Brian Mann, NPR News, Wilmington, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann