Based on the latest information from the county emergency operations center, Craven County Schools announces the following schedule changes and closings in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian and potential impacts on Craven County:
Craven County Schools will operate on a 2-hour early release for all students on Wednesday, Sept. 4. There will be no after school or evening activities during this same period.
Craven County Schools will Be Closed for all students and staff on Thursday, Sept. 5 and Friday, Sept 6.
Essential staff be prepared to be on standby for Thursday and Friday if the need arises and you are able to safely report to work.
“We realize many of our families have not fully recovered from Hurricane Florence so we strongly recommend you make the necessary preparations as soon as possible,” the district said in a news release.
Should any further announcements be necessary, notifications will be sent via the school alert system, local media, and the district web page – www.cravenk12.org– and social media sites.
Epiphany School for Global Studies will be closed Wednesday through Friday.
Craven County is one of three counties in North Carolina participating in the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Know Your Zone (KYZ) pilot program.
North Carolina Know Your Zone (KYZ) is a new tiered evacuation system that highlights areas most at risk to storm surge and flooding impacts from hurricanes, tropical storms, and other hazards. Know Your Zone relies on a color-coded approach for users to determine the evacuation zone where they live, work, or are visiting based upon their street address.
When a storm is approaching, Craven County officials will determine the zones that are most threatened to assess which residents should evacuate according to their level of vulnerability. Areas in Zone A will typically be evacuated first, followed by areas in Zone B, etc. While all zones won’t be evacuated in every event, emergency managers will work with local media and use other outreach tools to notify residents and visitors of impacted zones and evacuation instructions.
Know Your Zone is intended to streamline the evacuation process by supporting personal readiness as residents prepare for hazardous weather events. In addition to helping avoid unnecessary evacuation travel, zones can also ease overcrowding at local storm shelters and increase public safety. Knowing your zone and when to evacuate can ultimately save your family’s life.
Evacuations are only called for when the lives and safety of those in the area being evacuated will be at risk. Once an evacuation has been called, gather your belongings (including your emergency supply kit) and leave as soon as possible for your personal safety. If time allows, secure your home by locking doors and windows. By following evacuation orders, you are protecting both yourself and first responders.
Residents in Craven County can locate their assigned evacuation zone by visiting http://bit.ly/cravenKYZ.
While evacuation zones won’t be fully implemented across eastern NC until hurricane season 2020, Craven County residents will be assigned a zone this year given the County’s participation in the KYZ pilot program.
Craven County Government Emergency Management updates will appear on the Craven County website at www.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page @cravencounty and the Craven County Emergency Management Twitter account @cravencountync.
Workers at Morgan’s Tavern in Downtown New Bern install boards on windows Tuesday. NBPost photo
Craven County issued a voluntary evacuation order to be effective at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, for Zone A or for those living in low-lying areas of Craven County with a history of extreme flooding. Extreme wind, storm surge, rainfall and river flooding is expected in the Neuse and Trent River basins in Craven County as early as Wednesday evening.
People living in the following locations that are prone to flooding are encouraged to evacuate: Harlowe (Adam’s Creek and Clubfoot Creek), Fairfield Harbor, portions of theCity of New Bern (National Avenue, Woodrow and Duffyfield communities), Sandy Point, and River Bend.Residents in Craven County can locate their assigned Know Your Zone (KYZ) evacuation zone by visitinghttp://bit.ly/cravenKYZ.
“No mandatory evacuations have been ordered at this time. Craven County strongly urges all citizens to monitor this storm and even if you are not in the areas specifically mentioned in the voluntary evacuation order, consider your safety, take this hurricane very seriously, and make preparations to leave now,” stated Jack B. Veit, III, Craven County Manager.
Individuals in areas at risk of flooding should prepare for extreme storm surge.Past flood events have shown areas not directly impacted by flood waters may be isolated and travel may be restricted.
Four Emergency Shelters will open in Craven Countyon Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.for citizens living in low-lying areas prone to flooding who have nowhere else to relocate to:
Creekside Elementary (2790 Landscape Dr, New Bern) *New Location*
Ben D. Quinn Elementary (4275 Martin Luther King Blvd, New Bern) *Pet Friendly*
Farm Life Elementary (Vanceboro)
Citizens should bring their own pillows, blankets, medication, hygiene items, special foods, baby formula (if needed) and any other special needs items.There may be times that the shelters are without the ability to support medical devices and equipment so portable charging devices are recommended.Pets will be accepted at the Ben D. Quinn Elementary emergency shelter only.No other emergency shelters will allow pets.This shelter accepts cats and dogs only, no exotic pets.All pets must be crated.Pet owners need to bring bowls for food and water, food and medications for their pets, and rabies certificates (not the tags).Pet owners will be expected to remain at the shelter with their pet and are responsible for caring for and cleaning up after their pet.Citizens are prohibited from bringing weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, perishable food items, radios or televisions into an emergency shelter.Small hand-held devices can be used with headphones.
For more information on emergency shelters call Craven County Emergency Management at252-636-6608.Craven County Government Emergency Management updates will appear on the Craven County website atwww.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page@cravencountyand the Craven County Emergency Management Twitter account@cravencountync.
The City of New Bern declared aState of Emergencyeffective at 5 p.m. today. The proclamation, signed by Mayor Pro Tempore Jeffrey Odham, is an emergency mechanism that must be in place ahead of requests for regional, state, and federal resources. It also allows the city to take emergency measures to secure and protect residents, such as enacting curfews and limiting the sale of alcohol. No curfews or sales limitations are currently in effect.
Although the forecast track for hurricane Dorian remains uncertain, the City of New Bern is taking steps now to prepare and is encouraging residents to do the same. National Hurricane Center meteorologists say although a landfall is uncertain at this time, the storm poses a significant threat to the southeastern United States. By week’s end, Dorian is forecast to impact eastern North Carolina.
The City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on N.C. 55 will mobilize at 8 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 ahead of the storm. Management staff met today to discuss possible scenarios and storm impacts as well as current preparations, then began scheduling supplemental and on-call staff for storm duty. On Tuesday, city staff will begin checking supplies at the warehouse on Kale Road, making sure needs can be met for mitigating power outages, water and sewer emergencies, and debris removal. The Department of Public Utilities has mutual aid agreements in place should the City require additional help to restore power quickly and efficiently. Staff will begin topping off fuel in emergency response vehicles and equipment by midweek.
“We will know more about the track of the storm in the next 24-48 hours, but we are using this valuable time to get staff, equipment and supplies in place and ready to go,” said City Manager Mark Stephens. “New Bern could see storm surge, flooding, significant rain, power outages and wind damage as a result of this hurricane.”
The City’s stormwater pumps located at Jack Smith Creek and East Rose Street will begin operating soon in an effort to increase floodwater capacity ahead of hurricane Florence. During storms, these pumps come on automatically as water levels rise.
“Our best advice right now is to make sure your disaster kit is stocked and ready,” said Fire-Rescue Chief Robert Boyd. “Be sure to have food and water supplies for each member of the family to last several days, have first aid supplies and medications handy as well as batteries, flashlights and a weather radio. And if you live in a flood prone area, consider riding out the storm somewhere away from Dorian’s forecast track, possibly with a friend or family member.” Tuesday, firefighters will begin going door-to-door in low-lying areas encouraging residents to head inland. Those areas include, but are not limited to, Woodrow, Duffyfield, North 2nd Avenue, North Hills Drive, Cooper’s Landing, Hazel Avenue and Attmore Drive.
If you are a city customer and you lose power, report it by using our website portal atwww.NewBernNC.gov. From the homepage, click on “How Do I,” then “Report a Problem,” then “Report a Problem” (again), which will direct customers to a page where they can report power outages, water/sewer emergencies, and non-emergency issues. Or, call us at (252)636-4070. You do not need to speak to an operator. Leave a detailed message with your address, type of emergency, and contact info and an operator will call you back to ensure restoration.
Residents are strongly encouraged to subscribe to the City’s emergency alert system, CodeRED. It’s free and alerts subscribers to emergencies within the community through text messaging, emails, or phone calls. You can sign up on thecity websiteor download the CodeRED app to your smartphone.
Botanist Andy Walker of US Forest Service discusses a failed road and culvert that remains impassable this summer in the Croatan National Forest following storm damage from Hurricane Florence last year. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press
Nearly one year after Hurricane Florence pummeled North Carolina’s central coast, Croatan National Forest is still recovering from an estimated $17 million in damage to the forest’s infrastructure and costs to respond to the storm.
The storm inflicted widespread damage to the national forest as well as to nearby coastal communities like New Bern.
However, the Croatan’s native and restored longleaf forests were relatively unscathed by the Category 1 hurricane’s 100 mph winds and, in some locations, more than 2 feet of rain.
“What failed were all of the man-made things, but the forest’s ecosystem is in good shape,” saidRon Hudson,Croatan National Forest district ranger.
The current activities towards Environmental Justice and a Just Florence Recovery will be presented by Naeema Muhammad and Ashley Daniels of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and the Just Florence Recovery Coalition.
Date: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
Place: The Harrison Center, 311 Middle Street, New Bern
Environmental Justice is the effort to promote health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all human and natural resources, especially for low income communities and peoples of color.
The Just Florence Recovery aims to help these communities get the resources now to continue getting help after the hurricane and flooding devastation, but also to build resilience in affected communities for future climate related events.
Ashley Daniels has been an activist with the NC Sierra Club in Wilmington and a founding member of the NC Sierra Club’s Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee. She is an organizer for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and for the Just Florence Recovery.
Naeema Muhammad has been Organizing Co-Director with NCEJN since 2013. She has served as a community organizer working with communities dealing with waste from industrial hog operations and has co-authored publications regarding community based participatory research. She currently serves on the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board.
Hosted by the Carolina Nature Coalition, and cosponsored by the Craven County Branch of the NC NAACP and the NC Sierra Club Croatan Group.
All presentations are free and open to the general public. Questions and discussion are always encouraged.
Further Information: carolinanaturecoalition.org or 252-626-5100
Duke Energy awarded a $5,000 grant to Swiss Bear, Inc. and the City of New Bern to be used for flood resiliency planning. This brings the total amount of grant funding for the planning phase to $30,000.
The City received a $10,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Swiss Bear was awarded $15,000 from Wells Fargo. Additional grants are being sought.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season brought devastating effects to New Bern and surrounding areas. Hurricane Florence, the first major hurricane of the season, made landfall in mid-September.
New Bern and eastern North Carolina bore the brunt of coastal tidal surge during the storm. In addition to tidal surge, Florence brought an estimated 20 inches of rainfall to New Bern. Damages to residential and commercial properties totaled $100 million.
Then, less than a month later, hurricane Michael came up the eastern seaboard. Although downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Carolinas, Michael packed 30 mph winds and dumped more rain on an already devastated region of eastern North Carolina.
Swiss Bear and the City of New Bern are spearheading flood mitigation and resilience planning to include all areas of vulnerability.
“We appreciate Duke Energy recognizing the impacts of this storm and assisting the City with funding for the planning phase,” said Mark Stephens, New Bern city manager. “As a utility provider, their crews saw the destruction up close after Florence. Their corporate partnership will help in this process.”
Flood resiliency planning will not only focus on structures and infrastructure, but also on environmental protection and preservation. New Bern’s location at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers makes it home to numerous wildlife habitats, which were disrupted during the storm. The planning phase will address ecosystem vulnerability as well.
Development of the flood resiliency plan is estimated to cost about $90,000. Swiss Bear and the City will work together to publish a Request for Proposals in the coming weeks to engage a consulting firm to develop the plan. After the planning phase, the city will move forward with funding an implementation phase.
Dawn Zimmer, former mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, is giving a presentation on resiliency in New Bern on April 4.
A special meeting of the New Bern Board of Aldermen was called for 1 p.m. Thursday, April 4 in the City Hall Courtroom located on the second d floor, at 300 Pollock St., for the presentation.
According to Wikipedia, in 2012 Zimmer was widely acclaimed for leadership during the aftermath Hurricane Sandy. On Sept. 9, 2013, she was recognized as “Hero of the Harbor” by the Waterfront Alliance for her work “to make her city a national model for preparedness, meeting with FEMA and state officials, surban planners, scientists and many others to create an ‘integrated solution.'”
For her leadership during Hurricane Sandy, Zimmer was appointed to the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.
Because of the effort put forth by (pictured from left) Don Brinkley (PIE board member), Paul Brown, Pat Gulley, Chip Chagnon, Esther Patterson, Diane Bondurant, Brad Langhans, Mike McCoy (PIE board member), Katy Chadwick, and Debbie Hodges (not pictured), Brinkley said, “we can truly say that we have made our corner of the world a little better.” Submitted photo
In August 2018, Partners In Education (PIE), the local education foundation for Craven County Schools, had just held its Stuff the Bus campaign in preparation for the school year.
PIE received $35,000 worth of school supplies – a record amount – and Craven County Schools was well on its way to start a new school year with lots of school supplies.
Just a few short weeks later, Hurricane Florence hit Craven County, and Eastern North Carolina was devastated. Craven County Schools alone had over $9 million in damage. Many schools were used as shelters, and due to the damage, could not reopen for weeks.
Once the board of directors of PIE realized that much of the supplies received from Stuff the Bus had been damaged, they decided, as Diane Bingler Bondurant tagged it, to #ReStufftheBus.
With Craven County Schools Central Services office unable to accept school supplies, Chip Chagnon, board president of Craven County ABC, quickly stepped up and agreed to accept school supplies from all over the country. The staff at ABC Board hung the PIE “Stuff the Bus” banner on the front of their building so people would know where to go and the ABC office and warehouse became an unofficial annex for PIE.
Supplies were delivered in vans, trucks, the trunks of cars, and any other way that people could deliver the much needed supplies.
The ABC staff of Paul Brown, Esther Blevins Patterson, and Pat Gulley, never hesitated to help those delivering items with unloading their vehicles. Many a hand cart and pallet load full of supplies were unloaded.
As the supplies were delivered, Bradley A Langhans, Diane Bondurant, Katy Gwaltney Chadwick, and Debbie Lynn Hodges (who was not able to attend the presentation) stepped in. They called in an army of teachers who organized the school supplies and personal care items for disbursement.
After the supplies were organized, over 100 teachers who had been affected and displaced by the hurricane came to the ABC warehouse to get personal care items and school supplies for themselves, their classrooms, and their students.
The story doesn’t end here. Because of their generosity, PIE was able to accept supplies well into November. The ABC Board used their truck, and Paul Brown and Brad Langhans were able to deliver the sorted school supplies directly to each school as they reopened, replenishing the lost supplies they received earlier in the year from the original Stuff the Bus.
Don Brinkley, PIE president, says his best guesstimate is that PIE received and disbursed well over $70,000 in donations.
There were many hugs and tears shared as teachers came in to pick up supplies, even those personally affected by the hurricane came to help with the sorting. Brinkley said, “What did we learn? That there are no small acts of kindness. Every kind act creates a ripple without end.”
Six months after it made landfall, Hurricane Florence’s impacts on New Bern’s economy are still being felt throughout the city, but a new development may delay full recovery for some time.
Hurricane-damaged DoubleTree Riverfront hotel is closed indefinitely over insurance coverage issues related to the hurricane. Downtown New Bern will continue to face its worst economic crisis since 2008-10, when access to downtown was crippled by a bridge replacement and road construction projects.
“Business is definitely down,” said Lynne Harakal, director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, said about Hurricane Florence recovery. “The best information I can provide is revenues are down about 15-20 percent since the hurricane. In retail, that’s a very large hit. Most small retailers have a profit margin of about 10 percent at the end of the year, so if these percentages continue many of our retailers could be in jeopardy.
“Not having the DoubleTree makes this situation even more ominous. Our downtown businesses need the DoubleTree operational. Furthermore, they need the Conventional Center up and running and a thriving Farmers Market to draw customers to our shops and restaurants.”
New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, a top venue for activities ranging from Marine Corps Birthday balls to corporate shareholder meetings, occupies about 3 acres of the downtown frontage on the banks of the Trent River.
The Convention Center was badly damaged during the hurricane, but is aiming to reopen in the fall. A big piece of its marketing plan has been the presence of a full-service hotel right next door—the DoubleTree Riverfront by Hilton.
Sources said there have already been two cancelled bookings at the Convention Center because of the DoubleTree being closed.
The Convention Center and DoubleTree Riverfront occupy a space previously known as Bicentennial Park and, before that, New Bern’s busy waterfront dating to the 1700s. More
Why does the DoubleTree matter? After all, there are two other hotels downtown, and several others elsewhere in the city.
DoubleTree Riverfront, with 171 rooms, is by far the city’s largest hotel. More importantly, it is New Bern’s only full-service hotel. A full-service hotel offers full service accommodations, an on-site restaurant, and personalized service, such as a concierge, room service, and clothes pressing staff.
The DoubleTree was the hotel Alpha in New Bern, occupying the premiere location along the Trent River between the Convention Center and the N.C. History Center.
Once a full-fledged Hilton and, before that, a Sheraton, the $12 million property in New Bern has been operating under Hilton’s DoubleTree flag for several years.
Singh Investment Group owns one other hotel property in North Carolina (all others are in Georgia), the DoubleTree Oceanfront by Hilton in Atlantic Beach. It, too, was severely damaged by Hurricane Florence and remains closed.
Singh Investment has not answered a request to be interviewed by New Bern Post, and local officials say they have not answered their inquiries since January.
In mid-February, the hotel’s general manager attended a Tourism Development Agency meeting and said that due to litigation with the hotel’s insurance carrier over whether it covered damage from wind-driven rain, the hotel might remain closed.
The hotel owners transferred the general manager and two weeks later laid off the entire staff except the sales manager and a couple of maintenance workers. The sales manager worked to cancel remaining bookings.
This puts downtown New Bern in a bad spot. Take the New Bern Grand Marina, for example. It is under separate ownership, but it partnered with DoubleTree to provide amenities to the marina including showers and laundry.
Then, of course, its impacts on Convention Center bookings, and a large hotel staff that has been laid off.
Then there are other effects. A vast, empty parking lot beside a large hotel is not a good indicator of a thriving downtown.
In short, it puts downtown growth and prosperity at serious risk.
Moreover, the longer DoubleTree remains closed, the harder it will be to bring it back into operation. The DoubleTree may very well go from being one of Downtown New Bern’s crown jewels, to a major liability.
It’s sort of like what the Days Hotel did in Five Points. The Days Hotel went from being in business to derelict to being razed over an eight-year span.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel, when asked what the city could do about the hotel, said, “Nothing. It’s private property.”
She equates DoubleTree with the beleaguered SkySail condominiums right next door to the DoubleTrees and the long-vacant Elks Building smack dab in the middle of Downtown New Bern. They, too, are major properties in the downtown that seek solutions and remain vacant or underutilized.
She said DoubleTree’s owners said they are not interested in selling the hotel, and continue to seek a resolution from the insurance carrier.
Meanwhile, the hotel has not reached the level of nuisance abatement, and is current on its taxes, which total just over $120,000 per year.
While it is true that the hotel is private property, current on taxes, and may not have reached a point where it is a public safety hazard, it is demonstrably true that a vacant and empty hotel has an adverse economic impact on the city.
Cities have used that argument to justify employing eminent domain, the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Whether the city has the stomach for that kind of nuclear option depends on how severe impacts become as the DoubleTree Riverfront remains closed.