Floyd's Floods Linger On — and On

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When Bill Clinton shows up at a disaster area, it usually means the disaster’s over. But North Carolina, which would hardly agree with the bird’s-eye verdict that Hurricane Floyd was less fierce than anticipated, still has an aftershock or two left to go. As the President got ready to tour the ravaged state Monday, local officials were bracing for four more inches rain from Tropical Storm Harvey, which was set to sweep through western Florida Monday night. Flash flood warnings are being issued – and flooding is one thing North Carolina is becoming awfully familiar with these days. More overflow is expected from the Tar River, which crested Saturday in Tarboro at 43 feet, 24 feet above flood stage. The Neuse and Cape Fear rivers, meanwhile, weren't even expected to crest until Tuesday. And when a river floods in superfarm country, water is the least of your problems.

Smell that? Waste lagoons at several of North Carolina’s huge corporate pig farms have overflowed, and at least one has ruptured, spilling 2 million gallons of sewage into a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River. The entire water supplies of Pitt and Edgecombe counties have been contaminated, and four more inches from Harvey isn’t likely to help. New Jersey is facing similar problems — 1 million residents were told to boil their water this weekend after flooding overwhelmed a treatment plant – but the problems of an agricultural state are special. At least 110,000 hogs and a million poultry lie rotting in fetid floodwaters, and the animals that survive — military vehicles have been called in to help save livestock across the eastern part of the state – are certainly not defecating where they ought. North Carolinians will certainly welcome Bill Clinton’s moist eye (and wrinkled nose), and the attention and federal disaster monies he’ll bring with him. But with agricultural losses set to exceed $1 billion, rivers still on the rise, and the official death toll (now at 23) bound to skyrocket next week when those rivers finally recede, North Carolina’s disaster may have just begun.