With many areas in Sampson County relegated to islands due to rising waters and fractured roadways, some residents were merely attempting on Tuesday to find the long route to get gas, food or water — or, at the very least, higher ground.
While some needed to be rescued by helicopter and swift water boats to find that reprieve, others were able to find their way around the county to survey the damage or get needed supplies to take back to their homes, a good number of which were still in the dark on Tuesday even though electric companies were making a headway at the beginning of the week to restore power.
Jennifer King was feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence in many different ways. A Four County customer on Hayes Chapel Road, King was still without power on Tuesday and, as a Hobbton Elementary School teacher, was informed along with thousands of educators, faculty and students around Sampson County that school was out indefinitely.
Both Clinton City and Sampson County Schools said as much. Wednesday will be an optional workday for teachers in the city, but county personnel, with its many broken routes and stranded residents, may not see classrooms anytime soon.
“In the 20 years I’ve taught, I’ve never heard ‘closed until further notice,’” the third grade teacher, who has spent the past 14 years with Hobbton Elementary. “That is something I have never heard.”
On Tuesday, King was out riding with her father-in-law Ray King, an Ingold resident who has stayed with her through Florence. They went to Clinton on Monday, taking a 58-mile trip for what is normally a third of that, taking N.C. 903 to I-40 all the way to the Suttontown exit and into Clinton via U.S. 701.
They first attempted to get there by way of U.S. 421 South, but were re-routed as an inspector deemed the bridge at Six Runs Creek, part of the Cape Fear River Basin, “compromised,” said King. Even though the rest area was underwater, the route from Clinton to Harrells was fine.
Jennifer and Ray were assessing the areas around N.C. 903.
“The water here was a lot higher just yesterday,” Ray said, pointing to the flooded expanse on Moores Bridge Road. The water level was similar to Hurricane Matthew back in 2016, but definitely more severe this time around, he said. “I ain’t seen anything like it.”
On Tuesday, the Sampson County Emergency Operations Center’s Planning and Resources began establishing plans for Red Cross mass feedings on Monday, with locations dependent on the Red Cross. Some of those have taken place in Roseboro, Salemburg and Garland. Community events, including at Barden Street, were being scheduled, and others reached out with donations and acts of kindness for linemen and emergency responders.
Five shelters on Monday morning quickly became one by Tuesday, with the closure of Hobbton and Lakewood shelters quickly followed by Midway and Clinton, leaving just Sampson Middle School and its roughly 150 inhabitants — down from a peak of nearly 3,000 in nine general population shelters at the height of Flo’s wrath.
Sampson County and City of Clinton curfews were still in effect, the county from 7 p.m.to 7 a.m. for unincorporated areas, while the city loosened its curfew to 10 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday. The Town of Roseboro ended its curfew as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy reminded residents on Tuesday that the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew would continue.
“We are not out of danger yet. We all must take the conditions of our roads very seriously and not drive past barricades or in standing water,” the mayor stated. “Please continue to watch local news and please share information with others who may not receive this communication.”
Jennifer King stressed that, while she and her father-in-law were venturing out, they weren’t taking any chances, heeding all warnings to turn around at the sight of water. As much as they were surveying, there was one spot they couldn’t get to, and Jennifer wasn’t sure she even wanted to see — Ray’s house.
“We’re not sure he’s even going to be able to get to his house or how his house even is,” said Jennifer.
It’s located in Ingold off U.S. 701, the site of the most extreme flooding that local authorities have deemed “catastrophic.” People have been rescued from there. Ray’s neighbor Jonathan Weeks posted photos of his house on social media, showing it submerged. Ray’s cousin Franklin, also an Ingold resident, had six feet of water in his home after Matthew.
“I’m afraid it’s even worse (this time),” said Jennifer.
Even though her husband was out of town during the entire storm event, one accompanied with no power, Jennifer kept her spirits up, fortunate to be OK. She had a generator and a home that was undamaged.
“It’s like camping with a few luxury accommodations,” she said. “I can sleep in my own bed.”
In Garland, Murphy also counted her blessings and encouraged others to do the same.
She thanked the many who had worked together since the ordeal that is Hurricane Florence began, now leaving some residents stranded, some homeless and others in the dark. Still, through that darkness, the teamwork of a community was a beacon of light shining in Sampson.
“We are thankful to the Garland Baptist Church pastor and members, the Red Cross, county personnel, town staff, all commissioners, all community volunteers, local business owners, law enforcement, local fire/rescue teams, visiting rescue teams, and to you the citizens for helping neighbor to neighbor,” Murphy stated to residents, while giving them an update of some businesses open on Tuesday. “Thank you for the teamwork, the collaboration, active communication and willingness to help. We all owe all of our blessings to GOD!”
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.