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In hurricanes, severe storms, ‘Stantonsburg becomes an island’

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STANTONSBURG — Sights and sounds of Hurricane Hazel are seared into Annie Doris Joyner’s memory.

That’s one reason the 76-year-old Stantonsburg resident will be leaving her flood-prone property to weather Hurricane Florence on higher ground.

Joyner remembers riding out Hurricane Hazel in the basement of a packhouse in Saratoga on Oct. 15, 1954.

“Hazel was the baddest one I ever had seen,” Joyner said. “The wind was blowing up something. It blew down houses right close to us. Trees were blowing down. I won’t ever forget that because I was scared to death.”

Hazel was remembered for decades as the storm meteorologists used as a benchmark when referencing Florence’s size and power.

“My mama, all of us, me, my sister and brother, my mama and daddy, all of us were in a packhouse,” Joyner said. “We all stuck together. That was all we could do. It scared all of us. God let us live.”

Joyner said she’s still scared of hurricanes now, so it wasn’t hard to take her daughter’s advice to leave her home as Florence approaches

“I’m not going to let her stay,” said Teresa Perkins, Joyner’s daughter. “It’s too dangerous.”

Joyner’s property on North Whitley Street in Stantonsburg is prone to flooding.

“We won’t be here this time because of the trees and the way they are talking about he wind coming in here,” Perkins said.

A nearby ditch overflowed following heavy rain last April, flooding the yard and streets.

“We were stuck in the house with no lights,” Perkins said. “You couldn’t really go on the streets to go out. So we just stayed in until the winds went down and we could get out a little bit better. It’s a sight when you walk outside and see what all over here and you don’t know if it’s going to come up the stairs and come in the house.”

Joyner said she tends to go into her hall or a closet and pray.

“We don’t know whether it’s going to come or not. All I do is pray,” Joyner said. “God is going to do what he’s going to do. Just pray and wait. That’s all I can do. Pray and wait.”

Skip Covert, a lieutenant with the Stantonsburg-Moyton Volunteer Fire Department, said areas of Stantonsburg are vulnerable to flooding and he urges residents to leave their homes if evacuations are ordered.

“Don’t wait until you have to call us, because we might not be able to get to you if the water is too bad,” Covert said.

Contentnea Creek snakes its way by Stantonsburg and floods in major storms.

Pelt Road, N.C. 222 and parts of N.C. 58 at the Greene County line are particularly prone to flooding.

“Stantonsburg becomes an island when we start having a lot of rain in hurricanes and events like that,” Covert said.

Both the fire department and the Stantonsburg Police Department have recently acquired large military surplus vehicles that can be used for water rescues.

Police Chief Orlando Rosario said the military vehicles will help the city in high water.

“I would rather have them and never need them than need them and not have them,” Rosario said.

“This storm, it’s so unpredictable right now,” Covert said. “We’re hoping that we don’t have to use it, but we access to it if we really need to do it. We’re prepared. We’ve got our crews coming in staying at the station starting Thursday.”

Rosario, said a 20-to 30-member Civilian Crisis Response Team from Indiana is coming to Stantonsburg to help out.

Rosario said it’s important for residents to remember that in crisis situations like this hurricane, “the first 72 is on you.”

“Even thought we are first responders and we are going to help, there are more citizens than there are first responders, so we really stress to prepare yourself, whether that means filling up your trash cans, your sink, your bathtub, plastic bags, whatever, prepare yourself for the first three days to be self-sufficient,” Rosario said.

Macie Johnson, who just moved into a home two weeks ago at the end of Commercial Avenue in Stantonsburg, said she has never been through a storm like Florence before.

“I was born in 2000 and Hurricane Floyd came in ‘99. I heard that one was bad. I heard it was going to be really bad,” Johnson said. “I probably will get worried about it when it starts coming in. We’re prepared. We got water, candles, bread, but we still need to get a flashlight. We’re hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.”