Close calls and near misses: County emerges wet but resilient

By: By Gavin Stone - and Jasmine Hager - Staff Writers
John and Donna Kester with their son John John, 7, braved Saturday’s rainfall to see the water roaring over the Blewett Falls Lake dam.
The low section of U.S. 74 between Food Lion and Hall’s Thrift flooded Sunday afternoon, forcing officials to close the road. Things were clear and dry by Monday — and the sky was even blue.
Gloria Zinnerman washes and folds her laundry on Monday, getting rid of a backlog caused by a prolonged power outage at home.
Linward Baker shows off the gully that was his driveway before the hurricane dumped its load of rain. Baker had been through this before and was able to foresee the damage.

Trees fell, roads flooded and hundreds congregated in shelters, but — mercifully — no storm-related deaths were reported in Richmond County during the long and soggy weekend just past.

Following is a snapshot of the storm and those who slogged their way through it.

Once warned, twice armed. Suzette and Linward Baker had a dramatic scene at their home on U.S. 1 Sunday afternoon.

Their driveway extends through a stretch of Department of Transportation-owned land and over a ditch overrun during Hurricane Matthew, destroying their driveway.

Linward said he knew it would happen again, telling his wife after noticing a small crack in the composite that by the time it got dark, the water would have knocked out their driveway. He began cutting an alternative route to the road through a campground nearby, to the confusion of DOT workers.

By 7 p.m., Suzette Baker said, they could have gone whitewater rafting in their front yard. Linward explained that the ditch in front of their house created a bottleneck for the surrounding water in the area.

And this time, things were twice as bad as when Matthew hit.

By Monday, the waters had receded, leaving a “Grand Canyon” about 12 feet wide and 3 feet deep in the driveway, with only a calm trickle of water running through the middle.

“I’m going to go get my fly-fishing rod and see if I can’t catch some fish,” Linward said, looking out over the muddy divot in front of his house.

Darkness falls. The first significant outage reported in Richmond County occurred at the intersection of Spring Drive and McNeil Road in Roberdel, where six trees had fallen, at least two hitting power lines, near the homes of Chad Clark and Gary Trexler — both of whom spent Florence at Trexler’s house with their families, eight people in all.

Clark said it seemed as if all the trees fell at the same time, after one big gust of wind Friday morning. The only apparent property damaged in the area was a tree house in Trexler’s backyard, about 15 feet from his house.

Water’s no threat. The low section of U.S. 74 in front of Food Lion flooded Sunday afternoon as Hurricane Florence dumped its most sustained rainfall on the county, endangering the businesses on the strip next to Biscuitville.

Rockingham Guns and Ammo, owned by Robert Lee, took on a couple of inches of water Sunday night and Monday.

Lee said the flooding occurred three weeks before the anniversary of what Hurricane Matthew did to his home and business. He said he still had not fully recovered from Matthew’s damage and would have to start over again — but he wasn’t fazed.

“I’m an old Marine,” he said, “I’m tenacious, and I will come back.”

He said his store likely would reopen in a week.

Nick Murphy, owner of Nick’s 4X4 next door to Rockingham Guns and Ammo, said the only damage his shop took was about $200 to $300 worth of “stuff” in a box knocked over by the wind.

“We were ready this time,” Murphy said, referring to when Hurricane Matthew did several thousand dollars’ worth of damage to his shop. “Other than mud in our parking lot, we’re fine.”

Nick’s 4X4 will open Tuesday, Murphy said.

Mind the cook! On Saturday, Mary Anne Gibson called Spectrum to take care of a power line that had dropped to “neck level” in front of her house. She had watched several people, including a man on a bike, come upon it without seeing it and having to duck or swerve at the last minute.

The Spectrum representative on the phone told Gibson it could be Monday or Tuesday before someone restored her service, but only a short while later, James Bullard, a maintenance worker with Spectrum, came by and grabbed the line, lifting it over a passing vehicle before cutting it and pushing it aside.

Gibson said she was without power, had lost many shingles from her roof and was preparing for her roof to leak, but she still was cooking for her brothers, who live across the street. Using a Hibachi grill and oil cans, Gibson made grits, sausage and hot dogs for her brothers, who she said “better walk across the street if I’m cooking,” no matter what Florence had to say about it.

Movies or puddles? As the rain continued into Saturday, many people accepted it and decided to — safely — have some fun.

Jennifer Weaver and her daughter Alyssa, 8, had lost their cable connection but still had power and decided to stop by a Red Box to pick up some movies: “Ocean’s 8” for Mom and “Sherlock Gnomes” for Alyssa.

“(Alyssa) never goes outside but stayed out all day (Friday),” Jennifer Weaver said as her daughter splashed around in a puddle.

We’re wet anyway … John and Donna Kester with their son John John, 7, were among several families who braved the peak of the Saturday rainfall to see the water roaring over the Blewett Falls Lake dam.

Drenched, John Kester had given up on trying to stay dry. He said he heard a woman who apparently had journeyed to Richmond County to get out of a more dangerous area say to someone on the phone after seeing the dam, “Maybe we shouldn’t have evacuated here.”

Life goes on. After the wind and rain brought by Hurricane Florence tore down trees and power lines, families left without power still had to carry out basic functions.

Monday morning, Hamlet resident Gloria Zinnerman drove out to Hamlet Laundromat off West Hamlet Avenue to wash and fold her laundry, since she had not been able to do so during the storm. She said her power turned off Thursday and came back on Sunday evening around 9.

Zinnerman started doing her laundry at 10 in the morning and was there for at least two hours.

Other locals, such as Jeanette Lopez, also arrived early in the morning. Lopez’s power went off Friday night, and she still was without power Monday afternoon.

Families from Scotland County also visited Hamlet to do laundry and and to shop for groceries after the hurricane rendered them powerless.

Toris and Valerie Smith lost their power Friday evening and were waiting for an update from Duke Energy on Monday.

“They said they would give us a status tonight (Monday) on our power, but it might not be until Wednesday until the power is turned on,” Toris Smith said.

Evacuees have chores, too. Sisters-in-law Brittany and Jordan Norton considered themselves lucky not to have lost power during the storm, but they drove to Richmond from Scotland County to buy groceries and finish laundry since other locations around them were without power.

“Our power kept going in and out,” Brittany Jordan said. “The longest it was off was around 30 minutes.”

Jordan Norton explained that the two lived 3 to 4 miles away from the Richmond Mill Dam, which caused families living near it to evacuate. Other roads in the area were flooded and impassable.

“We haven’t been able to go out much, so today was our day,” said Jordan Norton. “We couldn’t travel to Laurinburg, so we came here (to do laundry) and to get groceries.”

John and Donna Kester with their son John John, 7, braved Saturday’s rainfall to see the water roaring over the Blewett Falls Lake dam.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_gavin3.jpgJohn and Donna Kester with their son John John, 7, braved Saturday’s rainfall to see the water roaring over the Blewett Falls Lake dam.

The low section of U.S. 74 between Food Lion and Hall’s Thrift flooded Sunday afternoon, forcing officials to close the road. Things were clear and dry by Monday — and the sky was even blue.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_gavin8.jpgThe low section of U.S. 74 between Food Lion and Hall’s Thrift flooded Sunday afternoon, forcing officials to close the road. Things were clear and dry by Monday — and the sky was even blue. Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Gloria Zinnerman washes and folds her laundry on Monday, getting rid of a backlog caused by a prolonged power outage at home.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_laundro2.jpgGloria Zinnerman washes and folds her laundry on Monday, getting rid of a backlog caused by a prolonged power outage at home. Jasmine Hager | Daily Journal

Linward Baker shows off the gully that was his driveway before the hurricane dumped its load of rain. Baker had been through this before and was able to foresee the damage.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_gully.jpgLinward Baker shows off the gully that was his driveway before the hurricane dumped its load of rain. Baker had been through this before and was able to foresee the damage. Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Robert Lee of Rockingham Guns and Ammo said Monday that he had yet to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and would have to start anew.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_lee.jpgRobert Lee of Rockingham Guns and Ammo said Monday that he had yet to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and would have to start anew. Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Gibson
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_cook.jpgGibson Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Alyssa
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_alyssa.jpgAlyssa Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Chad Clark and Gary Trexler spent Florence at Trexler’s house with their families, eight people in all.The Trexlers’ treehouse wound up under a fallen tree during the storm.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_2guys.jpgChad Clark and Gary Trexler spent Florence at Trexler’s house with their families, eight people in all.The Trexlers’ treehouse wound up under a fallen tree during the storm. Gavin Stone | Daily Journal
County emerges wet but resilient

By Gavin Stone

and Jasmine Hager

Staff Writers

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected] and Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected] and Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]