Jones County looks to rebuild, recover from Hurricane Florence
The Trenton Volunteer Fire Department used school buses to travel through floodwaters and rescue scores of residents during Hurricane Florence. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News
TRENTON | Hurricane Florence hit Jones County just as hard, if not harder than previous storms.
Steven Jones, service manager of Brock Motor Ford said one of the biggest differences between Florence and hurricanes such as Floyd and Matthew was the speed and timing of the flooding.
“The water rose much faster than Floyd and we had less warning,” Jones said. “A lot of people left before the hurricane, but nobody expected the flood levels to get this high this quick. Essentially, people were trapped here. All of downtown was underwater (a couple days ago) and around Monday afternoon it finally started dropping. We were finally able to drive a large vehicle through the center of town for the first time (Tuesday).”
Jones offered up the building to the Trenton Volunteer Fire Department, with members camping out there since the onslaught of the hurricane. The firefighters have used a generator for power with the city still devoid of electricity, but were still able to help rescue more than 200 residents.
“We went house-to-house with a fire truck, then we went and got a school bus as our form of transportation to save everyone in Trenton and get them to a shelter,” Trenton VFD Firefighter Mathew Jones said. “Everybody worked great as a team — it was not just one person.”
Kyle Koonce, Trenton VFD Assistant Fire Chief, said even during these tragic times, there have been efforts to unite the community.
“We just weren’t prepared for something to come up so fast,” Koonce said. “We were thinking it could be as bad as Floyd and then discovered it could be three feet higher. We’re a small community, we don’t have the assets and resources locally to handle something like this.
“The community came together — it wasn’t just the fire department, it was civilians helping people get out. The North side of Trenton was hit the hardest, with water over tops of houses, anything they left behind has been ruined. Some of them haven’t recovered from Matthew and now this has hit again.”
Due to flooding and many roads being blocked off, food and water had to be transported either by plane or boat.
“We couldn’t have done this with just Jones County (resources),” Koonce said. “If it weren’t for the crowd in Lenoir County — (Lenoir County Emergency Services director) Roger Dail and his staff, the people in Onslow County, Craven. I think every county around us has jumped in and said ‘what can we do to help you.’ The morale of the people in Trenton, they’ve lost everything they’ve got but they’ve never said anything bad.”
Koonce said the recovery process will be extremely tough considering the area isn’t nearly as well off as others across North Carolina.
“Trenton’s per capita income is really low here,” Koonce said. “We don’t have a whole lot of tax base and it’s going to take a lot more than local funds to get through this. It’s going to take state funds, federal funds. It’s going to take years. Residents are still without power and water.
“It doesn’t even seem real right now,” Koonce said. “It’s going to sink in about two to three weeks (from now). When everybody starts leaving, I hope the government, assets and people are still here to help us two to three weeks from now, 60 days from now and a year from now. It’s not just about Trenton, it’s the whole county.”
Trenton resident Roger Crouell said residents have looked to stay positive on a united front throughout the rough times.
“It’s been tragic, but everyone’s stuck together,” Crouell said. “The (Trenton VFD) has been on point with assistance and I can’t say anything bad about the response system. Right now, (the county) needs assistance, and that’s all I can say.”
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