In the fall of 2016 I planned a short trip through Virginia ending up touring around Pennsylvania – then came Hurricane Matthew. Obviously our trip was canceled. In fact when I called to cancel our reservations all I had to say was “I’m from Eastern North Carolina” and the reservation was canceled with no problem. This year we were scheduled to attend a wedding in Norfolk, VA on the week-end of September 28. Since we had some free time we decided to again try for Pennsylvania. When I plan a trip I make a draft of our route, places to stay and things to do. Needless to say as I work on the trip I update the draft. I was on Draft Nine when we started hearing about Hurricane Florence coming in as a Category 4 on the North Carolina coast. As the storm very slowly wound its way toward our coast we knew we would be home for the duration so no trip to Pennsylvania.
We went down to our home on the Pamlico River and secured things as best we could and prayed we had done enough. When we arrived back in Kinston we put the RV along with my Jeep in the storage warehouse to protect them from wind and potentially rising water. Our thoughts at that time were to plan on living in the RV in our driveway if we lost power. Then we began to prepare for the storm itself. We bought groceries and eventually were able to find a case of the very hard to locate water. By Wednesday, September 12th we were as ready as we could be. We stayed glued to the television as we watched the track wax and wane toward us. Each night as we went to bed we had no idea where the storm would be the next morning. Needless to say there were some sleepless nights as we heard the wind roar around our home. Fortunately we never lost power so we had AC and access to television and Internet. Although I am not a Facebook fan due to all of the vitriolic political postings I frequently checked in there. There were constant updates from our county Emergency Center plus many people posted their conditions. The rain came down in torrents and we began to wonder if it would ever stop. In total I think Kinston got nearly 20 inches during those few days however many communities got a great deal more, some a historic three feet plus. To say that Eastern North Carolina has been devastated is a huge understatement. The city where I used to work, New Bern only about 35 miles from here, looks like a war zone. It is heartbreaking to see that so many have lost everything they own. When we need work done on our RV we take it to Wilmington, about an hour and a half from us. That city too is beyond description and a week later they are still without power. Schools have been out all week and some counties are just posting that schools are closed until further notice.
On Saturday, the rains seemed to lessen a bit and since the storm took the southern route Jerry decided that we could go check on our river house. We had been in contact with our neighbor who bravely stayed and they kept us up to date with damage reports. I still was unprepared for what we found. We were missing several steps going up the back way leaving us to carefully move from one to another hoping that it was secure. The entire steps to Jerry’s workshop were gone and the small porch was hanging by a thread. It was still surrounded by water so it was inaccessible. Our little dock was gone however there was a dock in our yard, not ours though. The bulkhead was breached and along with the water were many rocks from it. Our beautiful patio that Jerry worked so hard on was damaged but nothing was missing. It will be a lot of hard work to repair it but it can be done. We had some leaks in the river room (sun porch) but other than that we couldn’t see any more damage. I was afraid we’d see more when we returned later. Many of the residents were out and about tromping through the standing water and waves accessing the damage. We only stayed about an hour as we were afraid we would run into rising water on the way back to Kinston and we did! There are only two ways to access Pamlico Beach, the main highway and then a little shortcut behind the main road. When we got back to the turn off the main highway was blocked. We didn’t know if it was due to a damaged bridge or high water but we had only one other way out, the back road. It was covered in standing water so we slowly and cautiously made our way through. We made it back home and other than a trip to church on Sunday we stayed close to home. The rains continued intermittently through Tuesday and then we saw the sun shine. What a beautiful sight among all of the devastation.
To the many volunteers who have come to Eastern North Carolina we cannot say thank you enough. Linesmen have come from Louisiana, Tennessee, New York and several other states. To the Red Cross, simply put thank you. Shelters are opened and distribution centers as well. We went to Sam’s yesterday and stocked up on towels and canned foods to drop off there.
Eastern North Carolina has been hit hard and there is much damage and more to come as the waters continue to rise. Flooding will become an even bigger problem but ENC is resilient and the damage is not insurmountable. We will pull together and we will survive. Oh, on a lighter note, my friends have asked me not to plan another fall trip to Pennsylvania. We don’t do well with the “F” words – Fran, Floyd, and now Florence, etc.!