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I am going to focus this month’s article
entirely on Hurricane Florence. This was
a historic storm of record, and discussing
anything else does not seem appropriate at this
.1 would like to start off by telling all of
the citizens of Pine Knoll Shores that, in my
observation, we should all be proud of our
community. And by community I mean the
total collection of men and women who live,
own property, and work in our town. A friend remarked that from his view in
California he compared the response he saw in North Carolina to Florence to what
he observed in New Orleans 13 years ago. He was amazed at the collective effort
of many in North Carolina to help one another. I think Pine Knoll Shores was a
microcosm of this. Here are a few of the things I saw with my own eyes:
• I saw 24 Pine Knoll Shores employees sleeping on air mattresses for a week at
town hall and at the public safety building, all spending 14-plus hours a day
clearing streets, setting up and moving pumps, and communicating with our
property owners literally worldwide via social media. Four of these people
saw their homes either destroyed or significantly damaged. They knew of
this, yet they remained.
• I saw citizens who immediately grabbed chainsaws and went to the homes
of neighbors to offer immediate assistance to people who, in some cases, had
trouble getting off their property due to fallen trees. Many of these citizens
did this before they started any work on their own homes.
• 1 saw citizens prepare food for town employees, for electric linemen from
throughout the Southeastern US, and for just about anyone who needed a
break. This food was provided in a mobile kitchen that I saw all over town in
the two weeks following the storm.
• 1 saw a citizen who owns a Bobcat mini-excavator offer his help to anyone in
town who needed it.
• When the debris started to be collected on September 21, and we had a
shortage of volunteers to monitor the trucks, we scheduled a short-notice
meeting at town hall to solicit volunteers. The board room was crowded with
many faces 1 had never seen before. These folks simply wanted to contribute.
• 1 saw a citizen who runs a foundation present a check for a generous sum to
the Public Safety Department for immediate post-storm support.
• 1 saw patience, a rare quality not often seen in today’s world, demonstrated
across the board in everything from waiting for a truck to move to waiting
for a pump to start.
In short, 1 saw on display the type of people who make the town what it is.
While certainly not surprised at what I witnessed, 1 must say that it was good to
see the degree to which Pine Knoll Shores citizens put the welfare of others before
their own. That is walking the walk.
A retrospective on the storm:
Pre-storm. In 2013, following lessons learned from Hurricane Irene (2011),
Emergency Manager and Fire Chief Jason Baker essentially rewrote the Pine Knoll
Shores Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). I think he did a great job with the EOP,
as it is action-oriented based on a timeline relative to landfall. Some of the things
that the department heads accomplished before landfall of Florence:
• We met to review the EOP itself, with particular emphasis on the checklist-
type items listed on one appendix.
• We refueled our diesel and gas tanks at town hall. Years ago some smart
people in Pine Knoll Shores said we should have our own fuel resupply
capability for use during emergencies, and they installed these tanks. We do,
and it paid off in Florence.
• We op-checked all generators at town hall, the public safety building (PSB),
and all of Sonny Cunningham’s production wells.
• The mayor declared a State of Emergency.
• Chief Baker’s Emergency Operations Center was stood up.
• Sonny Cunningham filled up our two massive water tanks.
• We purchased food and water supplies for all town personnel who would stay
on the island.
• The mayor. Chief Baker, and I attended meetings in Morehead City with the
county and other towns to discuss curfews, evacuations, declarations, and
other things to ready us for the disaster.
• Assistant Town Manager/Finance Officer Julie Anderson started probably the
best public messaging campaign for a natural disaster that a town of our size
could ask for. I received a number of comments from homeowners from afar
who told me that the single best way to keep up-to-date on the impacts of the
storm in Carteret County was via the town’s Facebook page.
• The damage assessment teams (made up of citizen volunteers with contracting
experience) were contacted and lined up for when they were needed.
• Construction sites in town were secured.
• Pumping down of the Reefstone/Bermuda Green pond and the golf course
ponds started in an effort to create excess capacity.
• Chief Baker arranged for an agreement with NCDOT to allow the town to
clear debris on Highway 58 (a state road). For those new to hurricanes in our
area: during Ophelia (2005) and Irene (2011) the debris that accumulated on
Highway 58 was not collected until just before Christmas. Try to imagine what
you have seen sitting on the road in the last month still there, with another two
months to go until pickup.
• Chief Baker made contact with our debris collectors to arrange for the start
of work before a single drop of rainfall. Again for those new to hurricanes
here: each year the chief solicits bids from contractors for this work, selects
a contractor, and gets Board approval. This is done annually in the April-
May time frame, and satisfies FEMA guidelines for federal assistance for the
cleanup. Some of our neighboring communities were putting this out to bid
after the storm. -
During the storm. What made Florence unique (and horribly destructive) was
the fact that it was 250 miles wide and moved at 3 mph. We experienced wind and
rain unseen in the memory of anyone I spoke to, and it lasted for three solid days.
Here are a few of the things that occurred during September 14-16:
• There were 10 people (and dogs) living at town hall. The spouse of
Julie Anderson was here, and worked as a volunteer helping out Sonny
Cunningham with the pumping battle.
There were 14 people (and dogs) living at the PSB.
• Pumping continued.
• The Fire and Police departments were out almost as soon as winds allowed
for safe movement. Long before the town was reopened to reentry pass
holders and the curfew ended, fallen trees were being cut to create passage.
For those who thought driving was dangerous when you first ventured out, it
was actually considerably worse immediately after the storm. This work was
particularly difficult as the firemen and police officers kept being chased inside
by dangerous winds.
• The town lost water pressure due to the unexplained loss of power from a
production well. A boil-water advisory was issued when water service was
• The police were enforcing the curfew established by Mayor Jones.
• The public-messaging campaign continued with emails and Facebook posts.
This included videos of drone flights, beach rides, and rides throughout town.
Immediately post-storm. This is, of course, when the reality of what Florence
did to Pine Knoll Shores became clear Many who evacuated told me upon their
return that they had never seen such devastation to our beautiful community. This
period is when we saw what our town is really made of. Here are a few of the things
which took place from September 17 to a date yet to be determined (as I type this on
October 17, we are still picking up debris).
• Pumping continued, and continued, and continued. The recurring comment
I heard was, “I have never seen water collect here.” There is simply no way
to adequately describe the shock to the island and Carteret County that this
storm and its 25 to 30 inches of wind-driven rain presented. Our water table
(Continued on page 17)
The Shoreline I November 2018