Some Areas Of NC Remain Underwater, As Other Begin Recovery
Hurricane Florence has joined Fran, Floyd and Matthew as one of the worst storms to strike North Carolina. Several rivers continue to rise today, Wilmington is cut off from the rest of the state, and hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power. In other pockets of the state, people are returning home and recovery is underway.In Mount Olive, Sue Dixon raked a small pile of pine needles in Mount Olive on Sunday afternoon following the monstrous storm. Generators ran in the background, flood waters receded, and the sun peeked through a cloudy sky at times.
“Definitely, seems like the wind and the rain has lasted much longer,” Dixon said.
A massive Willow Oak, uprooted by the force of Florence, was strewn horizontal just across the street, as a crew of linesman worked to restore power in this neighborhood.
“I don’t think it’s quite as bad as Fran was with trees and stuff,” she said. “And there were more trees down with Matthew, so between those two they kind of cleaned us out.”
Dixon and her husband have lived here for 30 years. They stayed through the storm. Others did not. A few houses down Ryan Fields stands, on his front porch, while his wife, Hope, played with their 18-month-old son Luke Mac.
“He actually did pretty good. We did lose power at her hours for about for 24-hours,” Dixon said. “He did okay even entertaining himself. But the sleepin’ with no air conditioning, he’s kind of like me and hot-natured, so that was not real any comfortable for any of us. But other than the he did really good.”
A few miles away, outside of Goldsboro several houses were lined with a moat of flood water Sunday. Rain fell intermittently. And on state Highway 117, at Brogdon United Methodist Church, volunteers were busy in the kitchen.
Anticipating a flood and the loss of its inventory of ingredients, the owner of nearby Big Jim’s Pizza called the pastor. A little while later, he was at work with members of his congregation, including Jackye Cushing, to prepare a community meal for later in the afternoon.
“We’re making it here, like rolling out the dough and stuff that Big Jim’s gave us… and then taking it outside and cooking it on the grill,” Cushing said. “How good is it to have a purpose? Oh yeah, we’ve been sitting for three days and it’s just driving us crazy. So just to be able to, that is good for the community, make it really nice to help people.”
Any sense of normalcy remained short-lived Sunday: with dozens of trees down, several roads flooded, and at one impassable juncture, the very strange smell of salt filled the air.
The nearby Neuse River was swollen with record rainfall, water from upstream, and storm surge, giving it an aura of ocean water.
Wayne County was in relatively decent shape Sunday. At least compared to nearby Duplin, where there were more storm-related deaths; and Cumberland, where the Cape Fear River threatens to crest at a height never before seen. There are different levels and points of stress right now.
Back in Raleigh, there was a palpable sense of weariness, where many of the more than 200 evacuees have now spent six nights sleeping in the Knightdale High School gymnasium. William James came with his sister, from Jacksonville in Onslow County. He’s a retired postal service worker who did three tours in Vietnam.
“I have never seen anything like this in North Carolina, and I’ve been here all my life,” said James, 73. “I’ve never seen anything close to this, to be honest with you. Never had to evacuate and go any place.”
James sats on a folding chair in the corner of the gym. A nebulizer to treat his asthma rested on his right knee. James didn't know on Sunday when he will get to go home. Despite everything, he remained upbeat.
“This guy that sleeps besides me has become a friend of mine. He’s from Carteret County, I go to Carteret County occasionally to fish and what not,” James said. “But I wouldn’t have met this guy if it wouldn’t have been for the storm. So I think you need to look at the water as half-filled instead of half-empty, so then you can see the positive in this experience.”
With Florence turning her assault toward the mountains, the worst for others areas of the state lies ahead. And for others, the long road to recovery is underway.