Lenoir County leaders prepare for the worst with Hurricane Florence

Lenoir County leaders prepare for the worst with Hurricane Florence

Kinston City Manager holds a sign that the City of Kinston is placing in flood-prone areas. Photos by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News.

Hurricane Florence is coming soon and the damage could be cataclysmic.

An emergency press conference was held between the Kinston City Council, Lenoir County Commissioners and members of Lenoir County Emergency Services Tuesday to discuss updates and plans regarding Hurricane Florence. EMS Director Roger Dail said the possibility of the storm — which is projected to reach the area Thursday afternoon and last until Saturday — doing serious damage is high.

“Everything we’re getting from the weather service over the last two days—the term they’ve been using is ‘catastrophic,’” Dail said. “I can tell you through our planning this is one of the most catastrophic things we’ve seen for our community. We’re looking at anywhere from 15 to 20 inches of rain. They’ve already told us (Tuesday) the flash flooding for Florence will be worse than Matthew.

“(In the county) we’ve already put the word out (that) if you live in a flash flooded area to evacuate.”

The Neuse River is at 4.5 feet, with the flood stage at around 14 feet. Hurricane Matthew in 2016 reached levels of 28 feet, 3 inches, which Florence has the potential to surpass.

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said there has been and will be plenty of information given to those in need, especially in high-risk areas.

“We are making sure that (the citizens) are mindful this area you’re in has the potential for flooding and you may be displaced from your home,” Sears said. “It’s not mandatory (for anyone to leave). We’re just putting information in citizens’ hands where they can be impacted. Unlike with Matthew, we anticipate this to be a more wind-heavy storm. We expect wind gusts up to the mid-80s (and) if your power goes out we can’t send our crews out if it’s not safe. Unfortunately, we’re at the mercy of the storm.”

For those staying in the area, Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram said it’s imperative for residents to adhere to banners and barricades.

“We lost several lives in the last storm because someone chose to go around the barrier,” Ingram said. “We’re not able to man every barricade because of the numbers, but they’re there for a reason and we ask you (not) to move them. Take it as there’s something bad on the other side.”

Overall, Lenoir County Chairman Craig Hill said the community has to stick together through a time of possible turmoil.

“This is one community, one family,” Hill said. “Every citizen is important to all of us. We know this is a historic event, but we also know this community has a lot of resiliency and a lot of empathy for each other. I can’t stress enough how important the next 24 hours are to put yourself in the very best position and also reach out to the next neighbor and help them. If everybody can replicate that we will have done anything we possibly can. This is a great community and I’m sure we will respond at the highest level.”

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