Hurricane Florence was making its appearance as the weather channels warned the Carolinas of what could be the worst hurricane to ever hit the area.
A category 4, maybe even a 5, was headed straight for North Carolina.
Naturally, that meant we would soon be out of bread, packs of water, and gas in only a short amount of time. Gas trucks began their descent to keep the gas companies filled up while locals were filling up both tanks for their automobiles and gas cans for their generators to prepare for the storm.
After a while, regular gas ran dry.
So everyone who needed gas would fill up with premium or take a chance for regular gas coming in the next day. Many gas companies would run out of gasoline before the sun even set for the day.
Just like gas, everyone depends on trucks being able to come in day after day to restock shelves, bring more generators, water, and basic supplies like batteries. We prayed that all of the medicine would be able to come in for our customers at the pharmacy and also to the pharmacies surrounding our store.
The lines at the store are absolutely crazy.
While everyone is keeping their eye on the weather radar hoping that maybe the storm took a turn back out to sea. However, the weather reports seemed to only become worse as the time became closer for the storm's grand entrance on the states.
Hospitals prepare to keep staff there to take care of patients that would be unable to leave or to transport them to another hospital if that town was most likely to be evacuated.
Doctor's offices were trying to make sure that their patients were taken care of for a least a couple of weeks if the road conditions were unable to be traveled on. Pharmacies filled more prescriptions than on average to ensure that none of their patients had to do without their medications if no one was able to travel.
All medical fields tried their best to work together to take care of their patients just in case the worse should happen.
Families would travel to safer areas due to the predictions of the hurricane's intensity while towns prepared for expected winds, rain, and possible flooding. The countdown begins for the arrival of the hurricane which can be at any time. Wednesday night is pushed back to Thursday morning… it ends up being a waiting game. No one knows what to expect, when, or how strong.
Finally, the storm arrives.
Storm surges begin to rise as people watch on the news from different shelters or their homes if they are lucky enough to be able to stay. The wind picks up as the rain comes and goes. People spend the last couple of hours outside before they will be inside for the next couple of days. Phone calls are made to make sure families and friends are okay and if they need anything. If nothing else, hurricanes make people come and work together to make sure everyone is safe and as ready as they can be.
Power begins to come and go until it finally shuts off for good.
If you go outside, you can hear the engines running across the neighborhood from generators being cranked to keep the food in the fridge cold until the power is fixed. It is night time at this point so the only thing to do really is sleep… or listen to the wind howl and limbs cracking before crashing onto the wet ground.
Keeping our eyes on the radar, we have to pick and choose when the best time would be to feed the farm animals, check the grounds, and let the dogs out.
The barn cats are able to come in to rest peacefully inside and stay out of danger's way. The mule and goats stay inside their houses while the chickens run crazy in the puddles trying to figure out what is going on. Even if you put them inside a chicken coop they only fly out refusing to stay dry inside.
Dawn starts to break.
The storm is on top of North Carolina moving just as slow as a turtle across the map.
Then the images, videos, and news began to roll in about the damage. House porches are collapsed, trees have fallen in on rooves, towns are flooded, stores are collapsed. New Bern does not even look like a town anymore after the water rushed in destroying the park, roads, and even made its way to the mall.
The place that my friends and I posed for a picture after a brunch looks like the middle of a river.
Nothing looks the way it did on Sunday.
Peoples' homes are destroyed while lives are being taken from the storm. You begin to think, "okay, this is the worst of it," but then there is talk of flooding coming right after.
Katherine Elizabeth Hill
Florence decided to let up on its strength when it came near us.
The storm surge seems to be the worse part of the storm, especially since we did not expect New Bern to receive so much water flowing across its roads. Parts of our barn flew off along with its shingles, but it's all something we can replace or fix. Tree limbs are down everywhere, but my family is safe, so that's all that matters.
Now we are just waiting to see how much damage there really is once we can go out and examine everything.
The next day as the rain continues, people begin to go around and check on their land and their families. A lot of roads were flooded or just completely washed away. As the day went on, the water went back down and did not cover the entire road anymore.
There is still a risk that if a person drove across certain roads that the road could give out and collapse, so people were asked to remain at their current location.
Katherine Elizabeth Hill
The rain, however, kept rolling in like an unwelcomed guest.
Early that morning, most of Deep Run did not have water because a pipe surfaced from water rushing in and either disconnected or broke completely. Thankfully, our water company fixed it as quickly as possible and we had water again later the next night. A lot of people in our area were concerned about using much water inside the house though because many of our septic tanks had water standing on top of them. No one wanted the septic tank to back up into the drains inside the house on top of everything else we were going through.
Lenoir County was advised to keep their eye on the Neuse River.
As previously experienced before, we know that once the Neuse reaches a certain height, then southern Lenoir county would be cut off for a few days. My family that came before the storm began all packed up and tried their best to make it home before southern Lenoir was cut off by the river.
The bridge was going to open at 1 PM Sunday to allow residents only (they must be able to show their pass to get onto the islands) back on to the beaches to check their homes and belongings. By God's grace, they were able to safely return home and start their clean up like most people in the Carolinas.
The next day, the rain came and went as the rivers continued to rise.
We tried our best to get to work while having to take random roads we would not normally take due to bridges closed and roads collapsed. The threat of the river rising kept hanging over our heads which made us a little nervous because we wanted to make sure everyone was able to get home safe and sound.
After work, we would spend our evenings trying to catch up with the mess that was now in our yards, barns, fields, etc. Everyone is exhausted from sleepless nights during the storm, but we keep pushing forward like always.
The sun finally made a short appearance even for a brief moment.
Katherine Elizabeth Hill
Fast forward to a week after the storm.
Two of the main entrances into Kinston from southern Lenoir county has already closed while our last entrance on highway 70 is in its final moments. People did not expect it to flood until tomorrow, so those who went to work today had to return home shortly after arriving to work.
Our high school, South Lenoir, is now a field hospital for our side of the county since we can no longer reach our normal hospital in Kinston. Helicopters fly in and out while people who have come from various locations are trying their best to help us in any way possible.
God was in control of Florence as its path moved into our country. He had the storm slow down and faded its strength from a possible category four to almost a one. We were very blessed this storm was not as it was predicted to be. Our states have lost some lives due to this hurricane and I pray for comfort to those families during this troubling time.
Although it was not near the storm that had been predicted, it did take a toll on many families and lands.
As a family, neighborhood, community, county, and state, we now look forward to fixing, rebuilding, and supporting those who may require our help and comfort. We are Carolina strong.