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As Hurricane Florence Approaches, the Rural Carolinas Brace For Impact

Widespread poverty, lack of transportation resources, and poor internet service could complicate emergency response in a region still reeling from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The last storm: Floodwaters caused by rain from Hurricane Matthew block NC Highway 41 outside of Lumberton, North Carolina in 2016.
The last storm: Floodwaters caused by rain from Hurricane Matthew block NC Highway 41 outside of Lumberton, North Carolina in 2016.Mike Spencer/AP

When Hurricane Hugo—the last Category 4 storm to strike the Carolinas—roared ashore in 1989, Jack Edwards knew what he had to do. In that storm’s immediate aftermath, he and his wife, Dorothy, went out to help their neighbors in their small town of Marion, South Carolina, about 50 miles from the coast. They connected generators, hung tarps over torn-up roofs, and tried to fill in the in the gaps in the county’s emergency response, which couldn’t get to everyone who needed help in this sparsely populated area.  

The Edwards have been taking on this disaster response after big storms locally and across the country ever since. In 2014, after an ice storm blacked out the power to a dying neighbor’s oxygen unit, the husband-wife team ran over to hook up their generator at 1 a.m., getting up in the middle of the night to make sure it stayed running for five days straight.