Residents warned to stay out of coastal waters in Florence aftermath

Two weeks after Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolina coast, killing dozens and flooding rivers and homes, it has left behind a slow-moving disaster of murky waters loaded with bacteria, viruses and other pollutants.

As a result, officials are warning residents to stay out of coastal waters to avoid contamination that can cause a series of infections, including 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.”

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy 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.

Aside from the parasites, flooding remains a concern.

In Georgetown County, South Carolina, thousands of residents were urged to evacuate ahead of historic flooding in an area where multiple swollen rivers converge.

The county, which dodged the brunt of then-Hurricane Florence’s ferocious winds, sits at the mouths of the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers.

The Waccamaw River crested Wednesday, and will start a slow fall Thursday. The Great Pee Dee and the larger Waccamaw River had swollen to record levels upstream, and in some areas water was headed downstream at historic levels.