New Hanover County’s press briefing today, shedding light on the ongoing recovery efforts of Hurricane Florence, brought with it good news. Earlier reports of the Cape Fear Utility Authority running out of fuel and threatening the discontinuation of water services to its southeastern NC customers left many in fear—especially since water is hard to come by in the midst of the storm. Commission Chairman Woody White announced services would continue, thanks to the help of Colonial Terminals in the port and Springer Eubank Oil. Still, with the threat of the Cape Fear River cresting on Tuesday, officials forewarned to continue keeping bathtubs, coolers and jugs full while the opportunity is there.
“We’re expecting 26 feet,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo informed.
Also in effect immediately is a modified curfew for the City of Wilmington: sun-up to sundown. A tremendous amount of flash-flooding took place last night, since ILM has received 24 inches of rain since Wednesday. More than 465 people had to be rescued from their homes and cars, so it’s imperative folks stay put if they don’t have an emergency.
White reminded folks to call 9-1-1 for life-threatening floods. Last night the New Hanover 9-1-1 call center went down and all calls were redirected to Raleigh, answered and responded to promptly. “I cannot thank our first-responders enough, as well as the county municipalities working 24 hours a day,” White praised. The local 9-1-1 dispatch is operating again, but if it goes down, the Raleigh dispatch will be in place as well.
Over the next 48 hours the five shelters in the county will be consolidated into two. Hoggard High, which can hold up to 1,387 people, will be open, and one at UNCW will be in operation tomorrow. Folks on dialysis and oxygen are being moved to Hoggard currently; the shelter will open today at 5 p.m. Pets are welcome.
Reports of looting yesterday have the city on high alert as well. Though the Family Dollar on Greenfield Street refused to press charges after undergoing theft, Mayor Saffo informed the police will take matters into their own hands. “If we see you looting in any way, shape or form, we will arrest you on the spot,” he reminded.
“Looting is not widespread,” White reminded, “only a few instances. But it reflects poorly on our community when we are working together to try and get through this.”
White iterated again his gratitude for state and federal officials being in constant communication and seeing through the area’s needs. They’ve requested more law enforcement and Coast Guard to help with rescue missions. As well supplies will now be airlifted in since the roads into Wilmington are impassable from all angles.
“The flooding we will see upstream will make it worse, so, please, stay where you are if you have evacuated,” Mayor Saffo pressed.
“Experts are saying access is worse,” White added, “so to me that infers [folks won’t be coming or leaving] for at least a few days. . . . But we will get through this because of the resiliency of our communities. This is a day-to-day process.”
To keep up with emergency updates from the county, access them at www.nhc.com, or call their public information hotline at 910-798-6800.