Florence soaks county, state

Daniel Kaiser surveys the damage from a tree that fell at his home on Peedin Avenue in Pine Level. Keith Barnes | Johnstonian News

Yashira Gomez and Yaratzia Gomez speak with Lynn Stanley at the Hurricane Florence shelter set up in the North Johnston MIddle School gymnasium in Micro. Keith Barnes | Johnstonian News

Jordan Thompson, 12, left, and his brother, Jonathan, 11, clear away debris from water standing in their front yard on Oliver Street in Pine Level following heavy rains that fell during Hurricane Florence. Keith Barnes | Johnstonian News

A group of horses on a farm on Princeton-Kenly Road near Kenly didn’t seem to mind Hurricane Florence on Friday. Steve Reed | Johnstonian News

Rain from Hurricane Florence filled a ditch near the Princeton town limits sign on Third Street. Steve Reed | Johnstonian News

Johnston sees minimal damage, but flooding threat remains

By Keith Barnes and Steve Reed

kbarnes.jhn@wilsontimes.com | 919-710-5549

While Hurricane Florence dealt eastern North Carolina a devastating blow Friday through Monday, Johnston County appeared to have fared better than some of its neighbors.

Florence made landfall near Wilmington early Saturday as a Category 2 storm packing a 105 mph punch. Though wind speeds quickly slowed, the reclassified Tropical Storm Florence remained a potent rainmaker, soaking the state for the better part of three days with heavy rain still falling in some places Monday morning.

As of press time, the storm’s death toll in North Carolina had reached 17.

Some 500,000 Duke Energy customers — including 3,900 in Johnston County — were without power as of Monday. Hundreds of local and out-of-state utility crews worked to restore power beginning midday Saturday.

Two wastewater spills were reported in Johnston County. About 40,200 gallons in the vicinity of 400 Fawnbrook Drive was discharged into a tributary to Holts Lake and roughly 69,000 gallons in the vicinity of 1457 W. Noble St. in Selma was discharged into an unnamed Neuse River tributary.

2 WATER RESCUES; NO INJURIES

“Johnston County did sustain damage and flooded roads, but overall we feel the citizens took the event seriously, were well-prepared and stayed away from flooded roads and other dangerous situations,” said Josh Holloman, assistant director of Johnston County Emergency Services.  “We appreciate that level of support from the citizens of Johnston County, as it aided in the safety of everyone, including our responders.”

“Our emergency services department was well-prepared for the event with a fully staffed Emergency Operations Center, strategically placed water rescue teams with the assistance of the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office and our local fire departments and several additional EMS resources deployed throughout the county,” said Holloman.

Holloman said Johnston County crews responded to a number trees and power lines down.

“Our partners with Duke Energy and NCDOT have been in the EOC with us and have been a great asset for getting the issues resolved in the field,” said Holloman. “On Saturday we responded to two water rescues — one conducted in the Overshot area by the National Guard team, the 230th Brigade Support Battalion, that was standing by here and one conducted in Benson by the water rescue team that was standing by here.

“There were no significant injuries from either event. Our EMS Division assisted with the precautionary evacuation of the hospice house in Smithfield on Wednesday and we will assist with retuning those patients on Tuesday, Sept. 18,” Holloman said Monday.

Holloman said the county’s EMS division was busy assisting the state EMS with a state special medical needs shelter, which was established by the state at C3 Church in the Cleveland community.

“We have assisted with transporting patients to that facility and transporting several patients out, who needed paramedic transport to the local emergency department,” said Holloman. “In addition, our EMS system assisted Robeson County on Sunday as part of an Ambulance Strike Team, which was a special request from the North Carolina Office of EMS.”

FLOODING CLOSES SCHOOLS

Johnston County rainfall fluctuated from 7 inches in some places to more than 20 inches in the northeastern portion of the county.

Rainfall totals were much higher along the coastal area of the state, with Swansboro in Carteret County reported to have received more than 30 inches.

Some 15,000 people were still in the more than 150 shelters set up throughout the state as of Monday morning.

The four shelters that were used in Johnston County at North Johnston Middle School, Benson Middle School, Clayton High School and West Johnston High School each closed on Saturday.

The North Johnston Middle School shelter had 234 visitors, according to Lynn Stanley of the Johnston County Department of Social Services.

“Everything ran smoothly,” said Stanley.

Kenly Fire Chief Paul Whitehurst reported minimal damage other than some minor street flooding and a few downed trees.

Pine Level police reported damage in the town to be minimal.

Johnston County Public Schools campuses were closed on Monday and scheduled to be closed on Tuesday, which was designated as a teacher workday.

Superintendent Ross Renfrow said schools hoped to reopen Wednesday. That decision had not been made before the Johnstonian News went to press.

JCPS spokeswoman Crystal Roberts said Monday that staff was assessing any possible flood damage at school campuses.

National Weather Service forecasters said flooding was expected to increase this week as water made its way from ditches, streams and tributaries into the Cape Fear, Neuse and Lumber River basins.

Mandatory evacuations were declared in Fayetteville and Lumberton on Sunday as floodwaters rose to dangerous levels.

HIGHWAY, ROAD CLOSURES

N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Andrew Barksdale reported that Interstate 40, the main thoroughfare for traffic between Raleigh and Wilmington, was closed on Saturday due to water over the highway and Interstate 95 was closed from just north of Fayetteville in Cumberland County to Rocky Mount in Nash County.

“We still have a lot of areas under water and we are assessing those areas,” Barksdale said. “We began yesterday mobilizing our crews and are working to reopen lanes or roads. In some cases, where there are downed power lines tangled with trees, we can’t touch it until the utility crews arrive and remove the power lines.”

N.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Michael Baker said more than 700 main or secondary roads were closed in the state due to being underwater or blocked with trees or power lines.

As of Monday morning, Johnston County had 21 road closures.

According to Baker, the Highway Patrol responded to 26 crashes in Johnston County over the duration of the storm.

No traffic fatalities were reported either in Johnston County or elsewhere in the state, Baker said.

Spokeswoman Suzette Rodriguez of Johnston Health hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton said no Florence-related patients were received during the hurricane.

Due to Hurricane Florence, the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce has postponed the 69th annual Mule Days Festival. It’s now scheduled from Thursday, Oct. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 28. Benson Town Clerk Terry Hobgood said this is the first time the event has been rescheduled.

The Johnston County Landfill and solid waste convenience centers will waive landfill tipping fees for storm-related debris and yard waste, said county spokeswoman Valerie McLamb.

The county will also waive building and permit fees for storm-related damage until further notice.

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