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Fate of town's only supermarket uncertain as the lights come back on

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The Tropicana Supermarket is shown prior to its opening in December. Supermarket employees spent Wednesday cleaning up after power was restored in Grifton. Officials said tons of perishable food would have to be discarded.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 20, 2018

GRIFTON —  Local residents could be seen returning to their daily tasks as electric power was restored. But the future of the Grifton’s only supermarket remains uncertain after Hurricane Florence left the town without power for more than a week.

For now, Tropicana Supermarket's owners are working to throw away tons of perishable food items and begin a massive clean up effort that could take several months, officials said.

“Right now, we have to clean up and because of losing power, we have to throw everything away,” co-owner Maximamo Gutierrez said. “I don't know when we will be open again or if we will open at all. We just don't know at this point.”

The Tropicana opened in Grifton in December. The town had been without a supermarket since 2016, when Hurricane Matthew floodwaters swamped the Piggly Wiggly, resulting in the store’s permanent closure.

Across the street from the Tropicana, managers at the Hwy 55 restaurant also spent Wednesday cleaning up, but were unavailable for comment. According to an employee at the Hwy 55 in Greenville, the Grifton restaurant plans to re-open for business as soon as today or Friday.

According to a new release, Grifton School is expected to operate on its regular schedule today. It was last school in Pitt County to have power restored. Principals are continuing to work with students and families adversely affected by Hurricane Florence, the release said.

Though Florence has moved on, damage assessments in Grifton have not been completed, said Mike Emory, Pitt County's public information officer.

Emory said that it appears the town fared better than it did when Hurricane Matthew came through.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this will prove to be less significant in terms of long-term damage,” Emory said.

In Greenville, the shelter at Landmark Baptist Church in Belvoir has closed and the number of pets who were dropped off at the Pitt County Animal shelter during Florence is on the decline.

As of the final count on Wednesday, the shelter had nearly 40 pets remaining who were dropped off for emergency shelter services. Staff has been working overtime to accommodate pet owners.

“We're calling people and they're like, 'I'm at work ' and we're like, “Well, we helped you out, you need to help us out because now we're getting all the stray calls and we don't have anywhere to put them,” Pitt County Animal Services Director Michele Whaley said on Tuesday. “And our staff is tired. We've been working 24 hours non-stop and have been sleeping here as we care for the animals.”

Beginning today through Friday, the shelter will modify its hours and be open for owner reclaims from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours for Saturday, will be from 8 a.m. to noon.

Officials are urging pet owners to reclaim their pets as soon as possible, as the resources being used to maintain the emergency sheltered population is preventing staff from fully resuming normal animal services.

There are no animals available for adoption, and there are no spaces for new animal intakes as a result.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

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