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Florence aftermath: Parts of county still lack power, flooding a concern

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A man and woman carry cases of food and water back to their vehicles, outside of the Grifton Mission Ministries, Monday. (Juliette Cooke/The Daily Reflector)


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

GRIFTON — More than 1,400 people are still in the dark in Pitt County and Duke Energy officials are not clear when power will be restored.

In Grifton, more than a dozen empty bucket trucks sat in a flooded Dollar General parking lot. Along various streets, workers cut down trees and began repairing power lines.

Alejandro Puente, who just moved to Grifton two months ago, was busy raking leaves and picking up fallen tree limbs left over from Hurricane Florence.

Puente has been without power for a week and said that he and neighbors have had to help each other out.

“We've all been kinda hanging out,” Puente said. “I was helping (a neighbor) move some trees and branches off her house and stuff like that. We're kind of reverting to the stone-age days without technology.”

Duke Energy reported 1,488 of its 2,011 Pitt County customers were without power.

“Pitt County is one of our hardest-hit areas so we've got 6,000 workers in the region to restore power to folks as safely and quickly as possible,” Spokeswoman Candice Knezevic said. “Because of conditions resulting from the storm, it's slowing our process of assessing the damage. Our crews are getting out there to assess damage and restore possible as soon as conditions allow.”

Knezevic added that updates are provided online at dukeenergyupdates.com and are usually posted in the morning.

Finding food

Puente said that since losing power, he has had to drive to Greenville and other places in search of food.

He is not alone.

The parking lot of Grifton’s only grocery store — Tropicana Supermarket — is flooded, forcing the business to remain closed. So local residents are scavenging for meals where they can.

At Grifton Mission Ministries, more than 300 town residents are being fed hot meals daily and an estimated 600 food boxes are being distributed to families affected by the hurricane.

Volunteer Amy Andrews, who also serves as the youth pastor for Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville, said that she and several youths have been preparing food boxes.

“Sometimes, it takes a crisis sometimes for people to realize that we need to help each other, Andrews said. “We have been the recipient of help in Greenville with Floyd and Matthew and we've had lots of time when our people needed the help. It's always a good idea when we can help others.”

At the Grifton EMS station, residents flocked to the Salvation Army Truck for meals on Monday afternoon..

Ayden Grifton student Talisha Mills and her mother, Charlene, said the aid is much appreciated.

Talisha Mills said that she and her mom have been taking things day by day and are trying not to complain too much.

“Everything's been good so far,” Mills said. “It's been kind of hot in the house with no air but we've been making it through. It hasn't been anything too dramatic and there's been family time with mom and board games.”

Mills and her mother have been driving to Greenville for food and supplies.

“My mom bought a six pack of water so we're good on water and for food we've kinda been getting tailgates from Bojangles,” she said.

Talisha Mills said she is concerned about not being able to get her school work done due to the power outages.

“I have a lot of projects online and I'm just wondering when the power will be back on so we can kind of get back to our normal schedules,” she said. 

Flooding woes

Grifton residents who live in low-lying areas said the flooding from Florence has been devastating.

Charlie Bass can only get to his mobile home right now by boat, as part of Wiley-Gaskins road was washed out by floodwaters.

“We hope it (the water) stops before it gets too bad,” Bass said. My wife's sister lives nearby and we've just been staying at her house watching the news.”

Bass added that he is trying to stay positive.

“So far right now, I'm thankful that it's not more water even though it's not through coming,” he said. “Maybe it's going to stop. I hope it's not a trend or a yearly thing.”

And as of 5 p.m. Monday, Contentnea Creek was at 20 feet and is expected to continue rising through Wednesday.

Pitt County Emergency Management officials are continuing to monitor conditions and Public Information Officer Mike Emory said that county operations are returning to a normal operating schedule in the meantime.

Grifton EMS officials said Monday afternoon that residents left early in anticipation of Hurricane Florence and have heeded warnings from officials.

“Grifton is no stranger to floods,” Assistant Chief Felix Harper said. “Ever since Floyd, when people start talking about a little bit of rain, heavy rains and the potential for flooding, they go ahead and prepare. 90 percent of the people have evacuated because they know what's going to happen.”

Ervin Harper, Grifton's EMS Chief, said, “This so far is not going to be anything like Matthew was. Some homes were damaged and vehicles were flooded out but it's just a waiting game and hopefully, everything will turn out okay.”

In Greenville, river levels at the Tar River have remained well below flood stage. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the Tar River was at 11.46 feet and is expected to increase to 12.6 feet by Friday.

Displaced residents

At Landmark Baptist Church, one of Greenville's emergency shelters, displaced residents said they are grateful to the hundreds of Red Cross volunteers who have accommodated them.

“The shelter staff has been treating us nice; this is a nice place,” Christopher Barfield of Ayden said.

“They give you good service and that's the good thing about it,” he said. “I stayed in Ayden on Weyerhaeuser Road and evacuated last Thursday night before coming here.”

Barfield said he lost everything he owned including his home, three cats and his truck.

“My truck was underwater and water ran in my house and everything. My house looks like a house sitting inside a fishing pond,” he said.

“I started to get back on my feet and was going to get my truck fixed and then it got flooded out,”  Barfield “Everything in my barn is gone and I've lost about everything. I'm a farm worker and it's been tough.

“I don't know what to do right now,” Barfield said. “I just have to see what happens from here. I don't have a choice.”

Animal shelter

At the Pitt County Animal Shelter, pickups of displaced animals are increasing and more than 100 volunteers are busy keeping the peace as dogs and cats wait for their owners.

“We've had a little bit of a wave come in,” Shelter Attendant Garret Neil said. “We've got about half of the animals out here within the last two days. We've had a few people ask about surrendering them from damages and what not, but we're not doing that until our operations are back to normal.”

So far, the shelter has about 60 dogs and a dozen cats, down from the nearly 200 animals housed at Florence's peak.

Neil said he hopes people will come and pick up their animals “as soon as they can safely do so.”

The shelter is operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice.