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Greenville lifts emergency state; creek rising in Grifton

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Volunteers work to assemble a cot at Holly Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church Sunday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 17, 2018

Greenville officials lifted a state of emergency and continued cleanup after Hurricane Florence on Sunday while residents in the southern Pitt County town of Grifton remained without power as the Contennea Creek was on the rise.

Officials also closed emergency shelters at five Pitt County schools and transferred about 200 remaining residents to two new shelter sites in church buildings, one in Belvoir and the other southwest of Greenville. Nearly 200 dogs and cats also remained at an emergency animal shelter run by Pitt County.

As of Sunday, Contentnea Creek was expected to crest at 18.5 feet on Wednesday, lower than levels experienced during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Pitt County Emergency Management reported. Nearly 1,800 residents in the Grifton area remained without power due to substation damage.

Members of a rescue team from Sacramento, California, stationed at the Ayden Volunteer Fire Department since Thursday, have been assisting in the area, Ayden Fire Chief Samuel Jones said. He said they are a godsend.

“We've all worked together during Florence, and we've all gotten pretty tight living in close quarters,” Jones said.

Duke Power reports that equipment is expected to arrive by noon today that will establish temporary electric services until permanent repairs can be made, Pitt County reported. Grifton remains under a state of emergency with mandatory evacuations of all businesses south of Main Street and all residences south of Queen Street.

Outside of Grifton, damage assessments have revealed little serious damage related to the storm, said Pitt County public information officer Mike Emory.

“We didn't have any major damage reported and there were no water rescues or confirmed fatalities that we know of,” Emory said. “Right now, our key actions are to monitor flooding in Grifton, and transitioning to our two emergency shelters,” Emory said.

No flooding is expected from the Tar River, officials said. The river crested at 11.5 feet on Saturday and levels are expected to continue dropping through the week.

"Hurricane Florence is slowly pulling away from our area,” Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly said in a news release Sunday, “and our city is continuing the recovery process. City workers have been out again today cleaning debris and conducting damage assessment, and I can report that Greenville has not sustained the type of damage that we have seen during some hurricanes of the past.”

Connelly thanked city staff for their efforts in preparing for the storm and their response and he thanked residents for their cooperation and compliance with requests to stay off city streets.

“While Greenville's overall damage was not as widespread as we have experienced in the past, some communities were not as fortunate. We as a city will continue to support our neighbors in all ways that we can as they begin the challenging recovery process. It is my hope that you will keep these areas in your thoughts and even join the city in assisting these communities that have catastrophic damages from Florence ...”

City offices will open today, and GREAT buses will operate on normal schedule. City recreational facilities also will open at their normal time, but many of the classes have been canceled or rescheduled. The city is asking residents to put storm debris curbside, not in the road, and for sanitation crews to pick up. Anyone with bulky items is asked to call the Public Works Department.

Greenville Utilities reported Sunday that flash flooding from the storm caused sewage spills totaling 8,230 gallons at four manhole locations: Millbrook Street (6,881 gallons), 1055 Elm St. (495 gallons), Jefferson Drive (440 gallons) and Greenbriar Drive (414 gallons).

Pitt County Schools will remain closed today even though schools sites are no longer hosting shelters. Pitt Community College also canceled class today. Both announced that officials would continue to monitor conditions and that announcements about Tuesday would be forthcoming. 

East Carolina University announced on Saturday that it would resume classes on Wednesday.

Emory said while the number of residents at emergency shelters has declined from a peak of about 900 down to 200, the county's animal shelter has been inundated with 188 dogs and cats.

“We've had a tremendous outpouring of support and volunteering as we try and get these animals out. The pickups have been a little slow but have been increasing steadily,” Emory said.

At the Farmer's Market across from the shelter, dozens of dogs and cats were housed in metal crates covered with cardboard Sunday to ease the stress of being surrounded by other animals.

Emory said that people need to come and get their animals and the shelter will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Sunday until further notice.

Remaining human evacuees moved from the five county middle schools to new shelters at Landmark Baptist Church on U.S. 13 outside Greenville and Holly Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church on Porter Road in Belvoir. Volunteers began the transition Sunday afternoon and unloaded cots along with food, water and other supplies.

Cally Edwards, director of the Northeast North Carolina American Red Cross Chapter, thanked the schools and church partners for their support.

“The schools have been a major player in terms of offering their buildings and facilities and meals in those first critical days after the event,” Edwards said. “However, this is the first time since we've gotten all these shelter partners from churches that we're getting to put them into action. We're excited to see the work we've been putting in these relationships and now we're working with our interfaith partners to support the needs of Pitt County.”

Pastor James Tripp of Holly Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church said that his congregation is ready to help.

“We wanted to be a blessing in the community by being available in situations like this,” Tripp said. “We try to be open and have staff from the church to assist Red Cross and emergency services whenever they need us.”

Tripp said the Holly Hill shelter was stocked full of food and supplies Saturday and that the response has been overwhelming.

“It has been overwhelming, the people who reach out. Different people throughout the country have called and asked us what we need and they've been getting it for us. The response to the needs of the people has been great. It's good to see the human kindness that people show during times like these,” Tripp said.

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