As floodwaters from Hurricane Florence begin to slowly recede in eastern NC, the combination of unprecedented flooding, toxic coal ash reservoirs being breached, and hog lagoons being swamped indicates a long-term environmental nightmare in the state, the first signs of which are massive fish kills across huge stretches of flooded highways.
Thousands of dead fish strewn along Interstate 40 have created an unnerving sight and smell for motorists as Hurricane Florence flood waters recede in eastern North Carolina.
Images of the piles of fish began appearing on social media over the weekend, including video of members of the Penderlea Fire Department washing the fish off the road with a fire hose.
“We can add ‘washing fish off of the interstate’ to the long list of interesting things firefighters get to experience!” said the post.
Department officials said the fish were found on a stretch of Interstate 40 in Pender County, near Wallace.
“Hurricane Florence caused massive flooding in our area and allowed the fish to travel far from their natural habitat, stranding them on the interstate when waters receded,” said the post.
Wilmington resident Dan George also posted a video that showed the roadway peppered with fish, including one that died caught in a roadside fence when the flood waters rose and fell. His video, posted Friday, has been viewed more 540,000 times on Facebook.
North Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor Jeff Garrett posted multiple photos showing a wide variety of fish that died, including one that was in the midst of eating smaller fish, which is seen hanging from its mouth.
Garrett’s post has been shared 32,000 times since Saturday.
Residents of the area are already starting to complain of the smell as fish begin to rot en masse on the side of the interstate.
Facebook commenter Aleksandr Gruzinskaya described the odor as a “horrible decaying flesh smell” and noted the situation is adding “insult to injury” as the region recovers from record-setting rainfall and flooding.
Sections of Interstate 40 were closed for days due to aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Vast sections of the interstate had water deep enough to allow boaters to travel the interstate, according to NCDOT drone footage.
The Myrtle Beach Sun News reported Saturday that marine fatalities of the storm also included a 20-foot-long whale that washed up on Caswell Beach. It was later buried by the town behind a dune, the newspaper reported.
The clean-up is beginning, but the environmental damage will take years, if not decades to fix, and that's not counting the very real possibility that a region that has drowned twice now under two 1000-year floods in two years doesn't get a third in the coming months or years ahead. Or a fourth. Or a fifth...