SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The Carolina coast wakes up today to damage from wind and water. That includes Beaufort, N.C., a city of 4,000 that's on the edge of the Outer Banks. The mayor there is Rett Newton, and he joins us now. Mayor Newton, thanks so much for being with us.
RETT NEWTON: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: How's your city doing?
NEWTON: Well, we're very much in a recovery mode right now. We have a lot of downed power lines. We have downed trees. So we're asking those that evacuated to please stand by while we clear a path for them to start their return and asking those who decided to stay behind to stay indoors, so we can get our first responders to take care of some of these threats that we have on our streets.
SIMON: Now, Mr. Mayor, you were among those who stayed behind. And we'll explain that you served in the Air Force. You helped in relief efforts in Japan after the tsunami there. Why did you stay?
NEWTON: Well, I'm part of the evacuation team. I'm part of the stay-in-place team. I'm part of the recovery team, as well. So I felt really strongly that I needed to be here, certainly concerned about the folks that did decide to stay behind, as well. So I want to be able to take care of them as quickly as possible.
SIMON: How effective was the evacuation order? Did a lot of people stay behind?
NEWTON: Well, surprisingly, a lot of people decided to evacuate that have not evacuated before. That being said, those who decided to stay - they stayed for a lot of different reasons, as your previous guest kind of articulated there. But we did have a good response for the evacuation. They did understand the seriousness of this storm, the magnitude, the energy that Florence was bringing.
SIMON: As you look out around your city today - I was about to say the streets of your city. Can you even see the streets?
NEWTON: We can. We had some substantial flooding yesterday, but we're at low tide right now - just kind of watching - again, 1 to 1:30 this afternoon will be the next large high tide. So we're really concerned about that surge. It did cover up a lot of our streets that were near the waterways that we have here.
SIMON: And what do you have to contend with now? What's your list of priorities?
NEWTON: Well, I think public safety is priority No. 1 right now, especially with the downed power lines and the trees. And we do have some structural damage, as well, that we need to assess.
SIMON: Any injuries?
NEWTON: No, we had a couple of evacuations due to flooding - nothing like our colleagues up in New Bern had. We also had a sailboat - the crew got kind of stuck midway, and we're on the Rachel Carson Reserve. They had to be rescued by a SWCC (ph) boat team yesterday from Atlantic Beach. But I also want to report that the Task Force 1 from Nevada, a SWCC boat team, showed up in Beaufort yesterday afternoon. And we were just thrilled to see that level of support, both locally with our professionals here but then also nationally.
SIMON: Mr. Mayor, what - are you, I mean, are you glad you stayed behind?
NEWTON: I am. I feel obligated to do that. I would not want to leave any man, woman, child, first responder behind. So I'm part of this team. It's really important to be able to lead from in front, not from 300 miles away.
SIMON: But, you know, there are, as I don't have to tell you, emergency experts who might wonder if you set a good precedent.
NEWTON: Well, and I'm...
SIMON: A good example maybe? Yeah.
NEWTON: ...I'm certainly subject to that criticism, but risk management is a big part of what I've done in my military background and what I'm accustomed to, as well. So I would not take any unnecessary risks. And I was watching the storm very closely.
SIMON: Mr. Mayor, in the half a minute we have left, there a lot of people listening to you. A lot of people will be becoming familiar with Beaufort today. They might be moved to help. How can they?
NEWTON: Well, that's a great question. Let us do the initial damage assessment first. And again, I think the biggest thing right now is for those that did evacuate, please standby, be patient with us as we kind of blaze a path for you to return - a safe path for your return.
SIMON: Rett Newton is the mayor of Beaufort, N.C. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.
NEWTON: Thank you, Scott.
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