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South Carolina Town Braces For Florence


Florence's incessant rain bands are still dousing the Carolinas. NPR's Rebecca Hersher spent the morning at a Baptist church that has escaped flooding so far, but where people are still on edge.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Pastor Gregory Batchelor has been anxious about rain for a whole week. The storm is moving so slowly, it's just been hard to know if the danger is past or if the worst is yet to come.

GREGORY BATCHELOR: One minute we're thinking, ha, we're finally over it. And then, 30 minutes later, you know, we're back. We're getting another rain band.

HERSHER: But this morning, the rain had slackened. Pastor Batchelor got up when the local curfew lifted, looked out the window and said, OK, let's have services. It's been a long week. People want to pray together. At 10:30, worship got underway at Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church in the aptly named Florence, S.C.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing) This is my story. This is...

HERSHER: One message from Batchelor and his assistant, Pastor George Atkins, was, let's help our neighbors.

BATCHELOR: Even though we did not get impacted, people definitely did.

HERSHER: But as Batchelor took the pulpit to deliver his sermon, a hard rain started falling again, pounding the roof - and then alarms.


HERSHER: People frantically checked and silenced their phones in equal numbers. Scott (ph) the safety guy assured the congregation everything was all right. Another hymn was sung.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing, unintelligible).

HERSHER: After the service was over, Yvonne Rhodes (ph) clutched her phone in her hand.

YVONNE RHODES: That rain was coming down there for a few minutes. You know it is up there.

HERSHER: Up there being North Carolina, where her sister lives. They spent the week together down here in Florence, S.C., after her sister evacuated. But by Sunday, they'd played every board game in the house, and it didn't seem dangerous to drive back. All through church, Yvonne worried.

RHODES: I tell you what I did - and I don't normally do this. I kept my phone, like, right here. And I haven't heard from her yet, but I'm going to find out.

HERSHER: With church over for the day but the rain still falling, Yvonne Rhodes returned home.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR News, Florence, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.