Hurricane Florence made a sharp left turn as it made landfall in southeastern North Carolina, sparing Greenville from the worst of its fury. Now, Pirates are responding, banding together to come to the aid of those in areas harder hit by the storm.
Sgt. Chester Jones, left, and Officer A. Ferguson of the ECU Police prepare a boat for possible rescue operations. (ECU Police Photo)
The cleanup and recovery effort began at home, with ECU Police and facilities personnel monitoring conditions on campus throughout the storm, and then assessing and addressing damage even as it continued to dump rain across the state.
Ricky Hill, director of facilities services, said the campus was fortunate to receive only minor damage during the storm. Lessons learned from prior storms were put to use in preparing for Florence.
“Facilities Services prepared our campus for the storm by installing flood gates and door dams, cleaning drains and protecting equipment to minimize potential impacts,” he said. “Grounds cleanup was minimal with only one tree downed and a few large limbs fallen in addition to yard debris. Water intrusion in buildings was expected with the wind and rain forecast; however, there was no major flooding in campus buildings.”
Water intrusion from roofs, walls, windows and doors was identified in 44 campus buildings but was considered minor and was cleaned up by in-house staff with some assistance from restoration vendors for drying equipment.
“After the storm, we carried out assessment and restoration to ensure ECU’s campus was safe and ready for students, faculty and staff to return to normal operations,” Hill said.
The ECU Police Department made preparations for a worst-case scenario as the storm approached, said Lt. Chris Sutton. Many campus departments, including Transit, Campus Living, Recreation and Wellness, Athletics and Dining Services supported the effort by providing light towers, trucks, boats, housing, traffic equipment and food service.
“Officers chose to sleep on campus so that round-the-clock coverage could be provided,” he said. Some were away from their homes and families for days.
Since the storm, the ECU Police Department has sent officers to assist UNC Pembroke, UNC Wilmington and the New Bern Police Department, allowing officers from those areas to take time off after more than a week of 12-hour shifts.
Officers also collected and delivered school supplies to Grifton Elementary School as a way of helping affected students in the Grifton area, where some residents were still without power as of Wednesday.
Brody-supplies: Students and faculty load a truck with supplies at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)
ECU students have contributed to the relief effort by collecting and distributing food, water and clothing. A group of students from the Brody School of Medicine started working before the storm, conducting a medical needs assessment at local storm shelter and then working to move medical beds and other supplies to where they were needed most.
According to Dr. Susan Schmidt, associate dean for student affairs at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, ECU students and employees had already logged more than 330 service hours as of Tuesday. At that time, 238 volunteers – including 166 students, 48 staff and 24 faculty members – had signed up to help.
On Wednesday morning, a group of faculty and student volunteers from Brody drove a trailer full of donations to Robeson County, where they planned to stay overnight to provide medical care to flood victims in shelters.
Dr. David Collier, professor of pediatrics at Brody, estimated that the trailer – which was donated by Farrior & Sons Construction for the trip – would be delivering more than $4,500 worth of donations that were collected in Brody’s lobby and another $3,500 worth of donations collected at Peace Presbyterian Church in Greenville to Robeson County storm victims.
“Robeson County is one of the poorest counties, with some of the least resources, in the state. It was hit very hard by Hurricane Matthew and was barely recovering from Matthew and is now having flooding even worse. This is sort of a double whammy for them, so they could really use all the help that they can get,” said Collier, adding that the Brody community was glad to be in a position to help others.
“The Brody community has always cared and cared deeply; I think that’s the kind of medical student we recruit and resident we recruit,” Collier said. “It’s part of the DNA of this medical school and university.”
Dr. Jaleeka Rudd, a 2018 Brody graduate and first-year family medicine intern, decided to start the donation drive at Brody after hearing about the need in Robeson County.
“The contacts I spoke to there said they were in serious need, to the point that they had a lot of people in shelters and they didn’t have enough supplies,” said Rudd, adding that she was proud of Brody’s response to the donation drive. “Any time we’ve ever called on the Brody family to donate and help out, they’ve always come through and went above and beyond to help those in need.”
Kimberly May, a third-year medical student, decided to join the group of volunteers heading to Robeson County after classes were cancelled due to the storm.
“Brody, as well as other people in the community, really came through with these donations to help the victims out,” May said. “But they should definitely keep donating because there’s a lot more need out there.”
Third-year pediatric resident Dr. Ashley Mehlman was on a rotation in Carteret County when she was forced to evacuate due to Hurricane Florence. On Wednesday morning, she was preparing for the trip to Robeson County.
“Just seeing all the photos of the damage, it’s just really sad,” Mehlman said. “And since we got evacuated where we were doing our rotation, we decided to come here and help.”
While the first donations were expected to be delivered to Robeson County on Wednesday, Collier and Rudd said that they would not be the last.
“It’s easy to say that we’re blessed because we didn’t get hit bad by this storm. But you have to remember those who weren’t as lucky,” Rudd said. “So get out, donate and continue to do all you can.”
In Duplin County, ECU is offering telemedicine services normally provided to elementary students to storm victims.
Jill Jennings, the program coordinator of a school-based telemedicine program at Brody’s Department of Family Medicine, said Wednesday that the county’s schools were closed and serving as shelters for storm victims.
As of June, the “Healthier Lives at School and Beyond” program provided behavioral health, nutrition and acute medical care services to three pre-K–8 elementary schools – Beulaville, Wallace and Warsaw.
However, since those schools already have telemedicine technology in place thanks to the federally-funded program, Jennings said she was working get in touch with leaders in Duplin County to offer telemedicine services to storm victims.
“Our partners in Duplin County were hit really hard,” Jennings said. “We’re just trying to find a way to help them.”
Approximately 50 students from ECU who are either National Guard or Reserve members have been called to duty by their units during and after Hurricane Florence, said Tim Wiseman, assistant vice chancellor for military programs.
“These Pirates are making a difference through their dedicated service to the nation,” he said.
The university has set up a recovery operations center for those affected by Hurricane Florence and created a website where individuals and businesses may request assistance and the ECU community may volunteer to help with recovering and rebuilding from the storm and its flooding.
Through the FlorenceRecovery.ecu.edu website, ECU matches faculty, staff, students, alumni and community volunteers with civic and community organizations to assist in recovery efforts in North Carolina’s eastern counties as well as offer technical assistance to eastern North Carolina businesses through various offices and specialists at ECU. Financial contributions can be made at http://www.piratealumni.com/hurricanerelief.
Donations of nonperishable food, along with hygiene and household items, are being collected at the Willis Building, which is also the site of the U.S. Small Business Administration Recovery Center, where businesses, homeowners and renters can apply for low-interest disaster recovery loans.
Meanwhile, the ECU Water Resources Center is asking citizens to help document the impacts of the storm in an effort to improve the scientific understanding of the extent and magnitude of storms like Florence. Individuals can record flooded areas, damaged roads or infrastructure, or damaged structures to help scientists and planners improve the prediction of hurricane impacts. The survey is available at http://bit.ly/florencesurvey
Milbert Moore, left, and Monuel Purnell look for damage on the rooftop of the Science and Technology Building. (ECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)