“We’re all in this together and we’re just now in the thick of it,” New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White said at the top of a live-streamed press briefing from the New Hanover County Government Center on Saturday, Sept. 15. “These weather events have a way of bringing people together.”
Chairman White was among local leadership to field questions on the damage assessment from Hurricane Florence thus far. While he and others are pleased with state and federal responses, they’ve noted the good samaritans working in the community and behind the scenes, already out cutting down trees and help their neighbors. He also warned to remain cautious as NHC remains under a Tropical Storm Warning and Flash Flood Warning. We can anticipate about another 14 inches of rain on top of the 12 inches we have received already. As well, the Cape Fear River at Burgaw is expected to rise 26 feet.
“For those who have evacuated, please, stay where you are,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo pleaded. “We have a lot of debris to remove before we can get [people] safely back into the city.”
Most people in the Wrightsville Beach area heeded the evacuation order, according to WB Mayor Bill Blair. Despite some major flooding and pictures of Lumina Avenue submerged in water, he said it wasn’t as bad as they anticipated. Though it was odd, as the impact came in from Banks Channel, the soundside, at the back of the island, so there was no ocean breach. It’s why the community is left in relatively good shape. They placed 750,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach a few months ago, which helped, too. Wrightsville experienced 5 to 6 feet of surge during the first high tide but have two more to get through today.
“We’re probably pretty fortunate; the structural damage may not be as severe as it is on TV,” he confirmed. “We feel pretty good about where we are right now.”
Mayor Saffo reminded all folks who must drive to treat intersections like a four-way stop. The city’s traffic assessment teams already have begun working to get lights running at major intersections as soon as possible. As well 35 city personnel are working to assess destruction: down trees, power lines, and stormwater and sinkhole damage. 112,000 people in New Hanover County are without power. While Duke Energy is expected to have about 1,000 trucks on the scene, there are currently 20 active tree-clearing crews on the ground, with more on the way.
“Nevertheless we’re expecting power outages for quite some time,” he continued. “If we see an active powerline we’re going to pull off until Duke Energy comes.”
The city has been in touch with Gov. Cooper throughout the storm and White praised the governor for being quite responsive. White pleaded with him and federal officials to impress upon their teams to arrive to our southeastern nook immediately. FEMA is still “pre-staging” supplies but is not on the ground yet. However, New Hanover County is expecting food and water for at least 60,000 people per day for four days. These resources will be available at three distribution centers, which will be announced on Sunday and open on Monday.
There are currently five pre-storm shelters in operation, including Cottington and Noble middle schools. The roof at Trask was taking in a lot of water, so folks were moved to Eaton Elementary instead. Efforts are being made to consolidate shelters in larger spaces and operating in the next 36 hours. The New Hanover County Landfill will be open to limited operations at 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Assessment teams with urban search and rescue teams also are in the field. For now, New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington have implemented a daily curfew from 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. until further notice. Citizens should remain inside during this time. There is a public hotline for questions and information at (910) 798-6800.
For more updates, visit emergency nhcgov.com.
Other important numbers:
Public Information Hotline
UNCW Emergency Info
CFCC Emergency Info
United Way 211