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Flooding from Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, NC. Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Hurricane Florence's rains have finally left the Carolinas, but the risks there are growing with rising rivers.

The big picture: Florence's death toll had risen to nearly 40 by Wednesday, with the storm shattering rainfall records in the Carolinas and ranking as an event that had less than a 0.1% chance of occurring in any given year. (In other words, this was a 1,000-year event for many.) Floodwaters have breached at least two storage facilities for coal ash, and hog farms that dot the landscape of eastern North Carolina are reportedly leaking waste into floodwaters.

More fatalities: On Monday, more lives were lost as floodwaters swelled and a tornado outbreak caused by Florence's remnants swept across parts of Virginia. The fatalities include a 1-year-old boy, killed when floodwaters ripped him from his mother's arms.

Between the lines:

  • The hazardous waste concerns center on everything from Superfund sites to coal ash pits and hog waste lagoons.
  • As of noon on Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said 4 hog lagoons had suffered structural damage, another 13 had discharged waste when they were overtopped and 9 had been inundated.
  • At least 2 facilities that store coal ash have reported some type of breach in containment or overtopping, which raises the possibility that this byproduct of burning coal has made it into rivers and, eventually, water supplies.
  • Coal ash contains hazardous heavy metals that are harmful to human health, such as arsenic and mercury.
  • One such spill has occurred at the Sutton power plant on Lake Sutton. According to The Washington Post, the coal ash landfill there has lost "more than 2,000 cubic yards of toxic waste, enough to fill more than 150 dump trucks."
  • “We’re confident the public and the environment remain well-protected,” said a Duke Energy spokesman.
  • On Wednesday, Duke Energy released testing results that show water quality in Sutton Lake has not been compromised: "Water quality remains well within state permit standards designed to protect people and the environment," the company reported.

By the numbers: Rising rivers are now cresting or will soon crest in many places in North Carolina, with record heights already being recorded.

  • The Lumber River at Lumberton, North Carolina, hit a record crest of 22.21 feet, nearly 10 feet above flood stage. Nearby homes are flooded once the river hits 17 feet.
  • The Cape Fear River in Fayetteville is forecast to crest at 61.8 feet on Wednesday, shy of a record but well-above flood stage, which is 35 feet. Such a reading would also be higher than the river level in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, considered a benchmark flood for much of eastern North Carolina.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Other rivers are rising more slowly, and the flooding from all these waterways "could last weeks," warns the National Weather Service.

The rainfall amounts that caused this flooding are staggering, with 30–40 inches falling over a wide swath of the Carolinas.

Go deeper: The ties between Hurricane Florence and climate change

Editor's note: This story has been updated with information from Duke Energy.

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

3 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.