Hurricane Florence brought more than heavy winds and torrential rains as she swept across Sampson County and south-eastern North Carolina over the weekend. Several local businesses are once again facing damage from the storm’s flood waters.
Star Communications and Parkside Grille, both damaged during Hurricane Matthew two years ago, are now facing similar destruction. Other local businesses are facing minimal water damage, and structural damage from a tornado that struck Monday morning.
Nearly one year ago, Star Communications employees were celebrating the return to the company’s main offices following devastating damage from Hurricane Matthew. Now, thanks to the excessive rain from Hurricane Florence, those employees are once again looking a temporary home.
The 23,000 square foot facility has once again been damaged from flood waters that rushed in two days after the massive hurricane made landfall in Wilmington. Employees made preparations before leaving their offices Thursday afternoon, putting furniture up on blocks, covering electronic equipment, and getting items off of the floors.
Star Communications, located on US 421 North, has called the location home for more than 50 years, but following the damage to the building from Hurricane Matthew, the main office was closed, sending customers to the retail location in Coharie Plaza shopping center to handle business. After undergoing major renovations and construction to fix the damage left behind from the 2016 storm, a grand reopening ceremony was held last September, almost one year after the nearly 50 employees were displaced.
Sunday morning, staff was contacted about entering the building to claim any personal items they wanted to salvage and employees worked to move all electronics out of the building. By lunch, there was approximately four inches of water standing in portions of the building. Hurricane Matthew left six to eight inches of water throughout, damaging sheetrock, insulation, cabinets, flooring and furniture.
According to Jeff Nethercutt, general manager for Star Communications, there was more than $1 million of damage done in 2016 to the building, not including the extent of the damage done to outside facilities across the county and damage to lines where flood waters washed away roads.
The extent of Florence’s damage is unknown.
The flood waters come from the Coharie Creek, which is part of the Cape Fear River Basin, and flows just steps away from the business doors. Water from the creek closed US 421 to motorists, after one of the highway’s three bridges was submerged in fast-flowing waters. With the Cape Fear not expected to crest until later this week, additional flooding is expected.
Just as the company did following Matthew’s devastation, Nethercutt said business is up and running, having temporarily placed employees in other locations across town. Star Communications, he said, believes in customer service, and taking care of their customers is what they are trying to do.
Parkside Grille’s owner Ken Sutton said he was little more prepared for Hurricane Florence than he was for Matthew two years ago, and his business fared a little better this go-around too.
After the flood waters from the 2016 hurricane left 6 feet of water in his building, Sutton said he began making preparations for Florence once he heard about the potential devastation it could bring. Employees worked to clean out items from the restaurant and seal up windows and doors before leaving last Thursday.
“I was prepared for the worst,” Sutton said. “With Matthew, it hit out of nowhere, but with Florence we had ample time to prepare. Matthew really caught us off guard.”
The building is in a floodplain and it is something Sutton says he knew before purchasing the building. Following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, approximately one foot of water damaged the building, and Matthew caused enough damage to close the business for five months.
Saturday morning, following the heavy rains Florence brought throughout the day Friday, and into the night, Sutton said the water began rising, and he began preparing.
Just five hours later, Saturday afternoon, Sutton said he returned, and luckily the waters had started to recede. Once he was able to get into the building, the restaurant owner said he found two inches of water standing on the inside, but nothing like what he saw during the last hurricane.
“Since Matthew, the town has done some work, and the landowner beside the town has worked to bust up dams,” Sutton said.
Sutton says he does plan to reopen, but until he can completely assess the damage, he can’t set a date.
Other businesses affected
Throughout Sampson County, residents and business owners were facing challenges following the flooding brought by Hurricane Floyd. While some businesses were open as soon as power was restored, others were left closed because of damage from leaking roofs.
Both Ribeyes and Pizza Inn were closed Monday, after heavy rains caused leaks in the roof and water damage. Isolated tornadoes have been a threat to the area since Friday, and several businesses and abandoned buildings in Roseboro were hit Monday morning when a tornado reportedly touched down.
Without power and sitting unoccupied Saturday night after Florence passed through town, Roseboro’s ABC Store was the target of a smash-and-dash, according to store manager Bill Gates.
Someone, Gates said, busted the side door, tearing up the lock and glass to gain entry. Once inside, the culprit grabbed five half-gallon bottles of alcohol. No arrests have been made.
“It’s terrible what people will do in times like this,” Gates said.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.