Recovery plans underway

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

WINDSOR – In an emergency meeting called Sunday evening by the Bertie County Commissioners, officials expressed concern and began making a plan for recovery efforts in Windsor, Colerain and throughout the county.

“Let us again thank God that Bertie County experienced no loss of life during this flooding event.  I believe that each County Commissioner kept his or her own prayer vigil for the people of Bertie County these past few days and nights. We should also thank our first responders and especially those volunteers for the many hours spent protecting life and property during this flooding event,” remarked Commission Chairman John Trent.

He added, “During the last five days we have witnessed the best that Bertie County has to offer in the care, compassion and tireless efforts to protect and assist our fellow citizens.  We also received strong support from the NC Emergency Management staff who have been on the ground with us at the Emergency Operation Center. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to the City of Fayetteville, the City of Greensboro and the Town of New Bern for sending their swift water rescue teams to assist our first responders.”

Trent continued, “I have spent many hours this week speaking with mayors and fire chiefs across this county, and this truly was an ‘all county’ event from the first rescue responses in Colerain to the massive flooding in the Town of Windsor and the surrounding areas.  I believe that (Windsor) Mayor Jim Hoggard shares the perspective that from a fire, law enforcement and emergency management approach, it was all hands on deck, and all of us working together.”

Trent noted that downtown Windsor experienced devastating business losses, and citizens from Colerain’s Long Branch community to residents along Toby Lane and other areas are suffering disruption to their lives and loss of entire households.

“We need to continue to support our neighbors and one another in the weeks and months ahead,” Trent stated.

He also noted, “And I am very thankful that Sheriff Holley and his office and the Communications Center were relocated prior to this event.  It would have been disastrous to have his personnel and equipment confined by the water blocking the streets near the prior location on Dundee Street.”

Bertie County Emergency Manager Mitch Cooper continued the meeting with a status report.

“This event started in Colerain at 1 am Wednesday morning, while most of us were still sleeping. The first event’s call was responded to by the Colerain Fire Department regarding a patient who needed evacuation.”

He continued, “This storm, what began as Tropical Storm Julia and was projected to have an estimated 2-4 inches of rain over eastern NC… well, farmers will be the first to tell you that it was way higher than that. Windsor had the highest county totals with 12.15” dumped over the area in a three-day period, due to the storm stalling because of a front. By Wednesday daylight, many roads were impassable… Most of the rain continued falling Wedsnesday night, with local farmers reporting over 11 inches of rain, and this was confirmed by the National Weather Service (NWS).”

Cooper noted, “The county was fortunate enough to receive a High Clearance Vehicle that was called as a request from Gates County, during a meeting called between county and town officials, as well as first responder leaders, after we got notified by NWS that flood waters would rise to above 14 feet.”

“At that time, a swift water task force was deployed by the towns of Fayettville and Greensboro to work in coordination with local first responders and emergency personnel… the Windsor House evacuated 52 patients and the total evacs and releases countywide was 138 people, but with zero casualties. The County Station 1 EMS building ended up with five and a half feet of water in its building,” he concluded.

According to County Tax Administrator Jodie Rhea, the tax department took the lead on tax assessments Monday, and split it up amongst four teams to be done as quickly as possible.

Rhea stated, “As of right now that we know of, there are 18 businesses, 52 houses and two churches affected. Also as of right now nothing is considered “destroyed,” but the damages range from minor to major due to the flooding. By Monday afternoon we will know the numbers to see if FEMA will come in based on the financial numbers of our assessment, and by Monday night, we should know something by tomorrow night to see if federal funding will be available or if it will be up to the county and the state.”

Tuesday, according to Cooper, a Joint Mobile Operations Center (JMOC), part of NC Emergency Management, will be open at the Bertie Department of Social Services in Windsor to talk with the uninsured or the underinsured.

“Also,” Cooper added, “something no one likes to talk about, but there will be a mental health piece in place, guys… these people have been through this thing three times now in the last couple of decades alone, and they need someone to talk to.”

The JMOC will be open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Also, a countywide State of Emergency remains in place at least until Friday of this week