Florence the week after: Thousands brace for more flooding

BLADENBORO, N.C. — Thousands of coastal residents remained on edge Sunday, told they may need to leave their homes because rivers are still rising more than a week after Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas.

About 6,000 to 8,000 people in Georgetown County, South Carolina, were alerted to be prepared to evacuate ahead of a “record event” of up to 10 feet (3 meters) of flooding expected from heavy rains dumped by Florence, county spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said. She said flooding is expected to begin Tuesday near parts of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers and that people in potential flood zones should plan to leave their homes Monday.

The county’s emergency management director, Sam Hodge, said in a video message posted online that authorities are closely watching river gauges and law enforcement would be going door to door in any threatened areas.

“From boots on the ground to technology that we have, we are trying to be able to get the message out,” Hodge said in the video feed, advising people they shouldn’t await an official order to evacuate should they begin to feel unsafe.

In North Carolina, five river gauges were still at major flood stage and five others were at moderate flood stage, according to National Weather Service. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest and remain at flood stage through the early part of the week, and parts of Interstates 95 and 40 are expected to remain underwater for another week or more.

But floodwaters already receding on one stretch of Interstate 40 left thousands of rotting fish on the pavement for firefighters to clean up. Video showed firefighters blasting the dead fish to the highway shoulder with a fire hose in Penderlea County in eastern North Carolina. The Penderlea Fire Department posted on their website: “We can add ‘washing fish off of the interstate’ to the long list of interesting things firefighters get to experience.”

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry said that eastern counties continue to see major flooding, including areas along the Black, Lumber, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

He said residents who register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency can begin moving into hotels Monday. The program initially will be open to residents in nine counties and then will be expanded. A FEMA coordinator said about 69,000 people from North Carolina have registered for assistance so far.

“Hurricane Florence has deeply wounded our state, wounds that will not fade soon as the flood waters finally recede,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday. The storm has claimed at least 43 lives since slamming into the coast Sept. 14.

In Washington, Congress is starting to consider almost $1.7 billion in new money to aid recovery efforts from Florence. Lawmakers already are facing a deadline this week to fund the government before the start of the new budget year Oct. 1, and members of Congress are expected to try to act on the disaster relief along with separate legislation to fund the government.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said the money would be available as grants to states to help rebuild housing and public works, and assist businesses as they recover from the storm. GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey called that “a first round” and that lawmakers are ready to act quickly if the federal disaster relief agency also needs more money.

An economic research firm estimated that Florence has caused around $44 billion in damage and lost output, which would make it one of the top 10 costliest U.S. hurricanes. The top disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cost $192.2 billion in today’s dollars, while last year’s Hurricane Harvey cost $133.5 billion Moody’s Analytics estimates Florence has caused $40 billion in damage and $4 billion in lost economic output, though the company stressed that the estimate is preliminary.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has estimated damage from the flood in his state at $1.2 billion. He asked congressional leaders to hurry federal aid.

In other developments, at least three wild horse herds survived Florence on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but caretakers were still trying to account for one herd living on a hard-hit barrier island, the News & Observer reported Sunday. Staff members are planning to make trips to the island this week to check on the Shackleford Banks herd.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, state environmental officials also said they’re closely monitoring two sites where Florence’s floodwaters have inundated coal ash sites .

And the National Hurricane Center in Miami said it was keeping an eye on fast-moving Tropical Storm Kirk in warm tropical Atlantic waters southwest of the Cabo Verd Islands still far from land. It said a newly formed subtropical storm in the North Atlantic, Leslie, was expected to dissipate in a few days.

Waggoner and Robertson reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Also contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Meg Kinnard in Galivants Ferry, South Carolina; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama and Michael Biesecker in Washington.

For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes

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‘Doonesbury’ creator weighs in on humor and Trump

In the preface to his new book “#SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump,” creator Garry Trudeau brings up the old Finley Dunne adage about advocacy journalism, about how it should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And that reference naturally raises the question: Does Trudeau think that Trump-era satire — from cartoonists to comedians — happens to be serving those same two needs, even if it’s not the aim?

“Trump is as thin-skinned as ever, but now that the slings and arrows are coming from the Justice Department, Big Satire is the least of Trump’s problems,” Trudeau tells The Washington Post about puncturing the powerful. “When you’re fighting for your life, you’ve got less time to worry about whether Alec Baldwin is misrepresenting your hair” on “Saturday Night Live.”

“As for the afflicted, there seems to be no slackening of the public’s appetite for mockery of POTUS,” the “Doonesbury” creator adds. “And as we head into the midterms, it seems like all the wiseguys are bringing their A game.” (He is a particular fan of Stephen Colbert, Andy Borowitz and Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri.)

One satiric tactic that Trudeau is finding particularly fruitful is the mimicry of President Donald Trump’s tweets. Right-leaning “Doonesbury” correspondent Roland B. Hedley Jr. has his own Twitter account, and his Fox News-like takes on this administration become comic-strip fodder for the left-leaning Trudeau.

“Writing for Roland must be what it was like creating material for Colbert on his old show,” Trudeau says. “Every day is Opposite Day.”

“I like the challenge of trying to think like the White House,” he adds, “of finding a positive spin for words and actions that are basically indefensible — and doing it with only 280 characters is a kind of comedy haiku.”

One area of parody that Trudeau likes to mine is Trump’s antagonism of the media — including his threats to loosen libel laws. Does Trudeau believe the president might ever alter the rules of satiric engagement?

“I realize that ‘established precedent’ is looking a little shaky these days, but ever since the (landmark Larry Flynt case) I’ve breathed a little easier — especially since ‘Doonesbury’ was invoked by name in the winning argument before the court,” Trudeau says.

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10 fruits and vegetables you’re probably storing all wrong

You bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, stash them in the refrigerator, then wonder what the heck happened to make them shrivel, rot or go limp a few days later. Much of the time, the culprit is the way you’re storing them. To keep your produce fresher longer, remember:

• Fruits and vegetables don’t play well together. So don’t store them together in a refrigerator drawer, or even next to one another on the counter or in the pantry.

Why?

Because many fruits produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can speed spoilage.

• Vegetables need to breathe. Poke holes in the plastic bags you store them in, or keep them in reusable mesh bags. An airtight plastic bag is the worst choice for storing vegetables, according to Barry Swanson, professor emeritus of food science at Washington State University. And don’t pack veggies tightly together, either; they need space for air circulation or they’ll spoil faster.

• Finally, don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them makes them more likely to spoil; the dampness encourages bacteria growth, says food research scientist Amanda Deering of Purdue University.

Storage tips

Follow these storage techniques to help 10 favorite foods stick around as long as possible:

1. Garlic

Store at room temperature in an open container, allowing air circulation. Don’t take off a clove’s protective papery husk until you’re ready to prepare it. It’s fine to store garlic next to its buddy, the onion.

2. Onions

Find some (clean) pantyhose. Add onions to each leg, tying a knot between each one. Hang at room temperature. If that doesn’t appeal to you, onions can be stored like garlic at room temperature on a countertop. Just keep them away from potatoes. And don’t put them in the refrigerator: The humidity and cold temperature will cause onions to turn mushy. Storing them away from light also helps keep them from becoming bitter.

3. Potatoes

Keep these in a dark and cool place, but don’t refrigerate. The cold, damp air in the refrigerator causes their starches to turn into sugars, which can affect taste and texture. Store them in a paper bag — more breathable than plastic — in a coolish spot, such as a pantry. Keep them away from onions or fruits such as apples that exude ethylene gas, which can make your spuds begin to sprout.

4. Asparagus

Cook’s Illustrated magazine tested four ways of storing asparagus; the best one, hands down, was to trim half an inch off the end of the stalks, then stand them up in a small amount of water (covered loosely with a plastic bag) in the refrigerator, like a bouquet. They stay fresh for about four days. Retrim the ends before using.

5. Carrots

First, trim off any green tops; they draw out moisture and cause carrots to go limp pretty quickly. Trimmed, unpeeled carrots can be refrigerated in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer for about two weeks. Trimmed carrots (such as baby-cut carrots or carrot sticks) will last longer when kept submerged in a tightly covered container filled with water. Change the water frequently, Deering advises.

6. Brussels sprouts

They last longer on the stem. Refrigerate the stem end in water and break off sprouts as needed. If you bought them as loose sprouts, refrigerate them unwashed and untrimmed in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer. Trim off outer leaves before cooking. Keep in mind: The longer they’re stored, the stronger their flavor will be.

7. Cucumbers

They hate to be cold. Anything below 50 degrees will cause them to spoil faster, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis. If you must refrigerate them, do it for no more than three days. Cucumbers also are sensitive to ethylene gas, so keep them away from bananas, melons and tomatoes.

8. Celery

To keep it crisp, refrigerate it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, not plastic wrap, so the ethylene gas it produces can escape. Rewrap tightly after each use. Store celery sticks like carrot sticks: submerged in water in a tightly covered container.

9. Tomatoes

Stem side up or down? Refrigerator or countertop? The debate continues, but North Carolina tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, author of “Epic Tomatoes,” says the evidence in favor of storing standard-size tomatoes stem side down (which Cook’s Illustrated advised in 2008) is scant at best. It might help keep moisture from collecting around the stem and causing spoilage, he concedes, but “it really depends on the type of tomato: A thin-skinned, delicate heirloom will have a different result than a thick-skinned supermarket variety.”

More important: Cook’s Illustrated and others have done an about-face when it comes to tomato refrigeration. As long as tomatoes are fully ripe, a few days in the fridge won’t ruin their flavor — and it will extend their shelf life. So let whole tomatoes ripen on the counter, then store them stem side down on a plate in the refrigerator. Cut tomatoes do better in an airtight container so they don’t pick up any off-flavors. Let tomatoes come to room temperature before serving.

10. Bananas

Break up the bunch, as charming as it might look. Then wrap each stem in plastic wrap. That will reduce the emission of ethylene gas, forcing the fruit to ripen more slowly. Once a banana reaches the desired amount of ripeness, you can refrigerate it; the cold will keep it from ripening further.

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