Hurricane Michael could bring significant rain and wind to our area Thursday, according to National Hurricane Center projections.
For an area still recovering from devastation from Hurricane Florence in mid-September, this is obviously bad news.
Michael is predicted to become a major hurricane (with wind speeds in excess of 110 mph) in the Gulf of Mexico by 8 p.m. Tuesday and make landfall near Panama City, Fla., late Wednesday morning.
It is predicted to pick up speed but lose strength, becoming a tropical storm somewhere over Georgia on Thursday morning.
Its eye, or what is left of it, should pass over our area (Craven County) sometime later Thursday, either as a tropical storm or a post tropical storm. Though by that time nowhere near as powerful as Florence, wind and rain are predicted to be significant, and the cone as projected at 11 a.m. Monday centers squarely on New Bern midday Thursday.
Residents with roof damage unrepaired since Florence are particularly vulnerable. Also, soils still soggy from Florence-caused flooding could experience more trees downed by Michael.
There is no word about Mumfest, the street festival and concert scheduled for this weekend. Mumfest was rescheduled a month later in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew. Although Michael will have cleared the area by the weekend, it is impossible to predict what damage it will cause and whether that will affect Mumfest planning.
LONGLEAF POLITICS | Hurricane Matthew struck eastern North Carolina on Oct. 9, 2016.
A full 18 months later, some of the first federally funded repairs are slated to begin this June.
Hurricane Matthew has re-emerged as a political issue in Raleigh as thousands of people in eastern North Carolina await public money to rebuild.
The storm was one of the most devastating in North Carolina’s history, killing 31 people and caused more than $4.8 billion in damage. Matthew set rainfall records in 17 counties, and 2,300 people were rescued from floodwaters.
Why is recovery taking so long?
It mostly has to do with the processes set up to distribute the roughly $1.7 billion in recovery aid expected from the federal and state government.
While the initial response from the N.C. National Guard and FEMA came quickly, North Carolina has been in no hurry to distribute money intended for longer-term recovery.
And as it turns out, there’s a huge difference between money that’s been approved — and money that’s actually been used.
The breakdown of funding sources is an alphabet soup of agencies, each with its own policies and mechanisms and hoops to jump through. State governments have incentives to get roads repaired quickly. Homes, not so much.
Here’s a quick explanation of how disaster recovery works. It’s ordered by how quickly money has been distributed.
Analysis by the Environmental Finance Center compares water and sewer revenues with operation and maintenance costs. Gray dots show municipal systems that have enough revenue to cover expenses. Peach-colored pentagons show show those with enough revenues to cover their combined expenses and debts. The bright red squares represent those without enough revenue to cover regular operating and maintenance expenses. Almost a quarter of systems across the state fall in those categories coming up short. Thanks, in part, to Florence and Matthew, many of those are clustered in the east.
CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS
Taking stock of what it will take to rebuild after Hurricane Florence, it’s important to remember that even before this year’s hurricane season started, the finances of dozens of water and sewer systems throughout North Carolina were already underwater.
Some were damaged in prior storms. Many more across the state are caught in a long-term downward spiral of declining jobs and population.
As policymakers begin to shape the state’s rebuilding program in response to Hurricane Florence, they must deal with the already distressed systems and those damaged in the most recent storm. They must also come up with a long-term solution to a chronic statewide maintenance backlog.
These will be the key steps toward building resiliency, especially in the hard-hit eastern region of the state.
At a recent General Assembly committee meeting in Raleigh, Edgar Starnes, legislative liaison for the N.C. Department of State Treasurer, said 37 water and sewer systems in Florence disaster areas are going to need significant help dealing with the damage.
“The repairs they’re going to face are going to be very expensive,” he told members of a joint House and Senate committee studying water and sewer systems in a post-storm assessment held in late September. “They’re in a lot of trouble because of the flood right now.”
The damage to those systems and the floods that followed resulted in tens of millions of gallons of wastewater and sewage spills.
Some of the systems were the same as those damaged in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew roared through many of the same communities.
New Bern City Staff met Monday morning to discuss all the preparations that are going on ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
“We are on top of it and hope that you all are taking steps to secure your belongings and property,” said City Manager Mark Stephens. “This is the real deal and impacts in and around our city could be tremendous.”
Residents should expect widespread power outages and significant flooding in our low-lying areas as well as those near water.
Stephens urged residents who live in flood-prone areas to evacuate to family or friends who live outside the path of the storm or, if that is not possible, use shelters once they become available.
“Once the storm is affecting our area with significant winds, we will not be going in for rescues until it is safe for our crews to do so,” Stephens said. “It is our intent to begin staffing the EOC (Emergency Operations Center”) at noon on Wednesday and will be there throughout the duration of the storm event.
“We will continue to update our city website and social media outlets constantly to provide information for citizens as the storm progresses,” Stephens said.
A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for our area in advance of snow predicted for later today. Craven County Schools are releasing early today to get children home before the roads get too bad.
Here is raw data from the National Weather Service:
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City NC
1010 AM EST Wed Jan 17 2018
...LIGHT SNOW TO DEVELOP OVER EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA LATE THIS
...COASTAL LOW WILL BRING LOCALLY HEAVIER SNOWS TO COASTAL NORTH
.Rain will begin early this afternoon for the Coastal Plain, then
transition to a rain and snow mix, then primarily snow late this
afternoon into the evening for inland and northern areas, with 1
to as much as 2 inches possible.
Then, a coastal low will develop and bring a period of locally
heavier snow to the Eastern NC coast tonight, with up to 2 to 4
Washington-Tyrrell-Mainland Dare-Beaufort-Mainland Hyde-Craven-
Pamlico-Carteret-Outer Banks Dare-Outer Banks Hyde-
Including the cities of Plymouth, Roper, Creswell, Columbia,
Gum Neck, Manns Harbor, Stumpy Point, East Lake, Washington,
Chocowinity, Belhaven, Bath, Aurora, Engelhard, Fairfield,
Ponzer, Scranton, Swanquarter, New Bern, Havelock, Vanceboro,
Cove City, Oriental, Bayboro, Arapahoe, Vandemere, Morehead City,
Beaufort, Newport, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Kitty Hawk,
Nags Head, Manteo, Rodanthe, Buxton, Hatteras Village,
1010 AM EST Wed Jan 17 2018
...WINTER STORM WARNING NOW IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING TO
6 AM EST THURSDAY...
* WHAT...Snow expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions. Total
snow accumulations of up to two to four inches are expected.
* WHERE...Portions of eastern North Carolina.
* WHEN...From 7 PM this evening to 6 AM EST Thursday.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Be prepared for significant reductions in
visibility at times.
A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather
conditions are expected. If you must travel, keep an extra
flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an
emergency. The latest road conditions for the state you are
calling from can be obtained by calling 5 1 1.
With more snow in the forecast for later Wednesday, folks may be thinking back a couple of weeks to the snow event that shut down much of New Bern for several days and left streets and highways coated with ice.
But there are big differences between the snow predicted for Wednesday and the snow that fell on Jan. 3.
“Snowmageddon” shut down the city for two days and schools for a full week, from Wednesday, Jan. 3, when the mere whiff of snow in the forecast was enough for jittery administrators to stop the buses, through Tuesday, Jan. 9. Country roads were in such poor shape on Wednesday, Jan. 10, that schools started three hours late.
Stanley Kite, Craven County Emergency Services coordinator, said the Jan. 3 snow storm was atypical of an Eastern N.C. snow event, with some additional complications thrown in for good measure.
There was a long period of freezing temperatures before the snow, setting up a framework for icing that was underlying the snow once it began to fall. Then, days after, the area continued to experience sub-freezing temperatures. That rendered normal processes like road plowing and brine ineffective for clearing roads and keeping them ice free, Kite said.
“The NC DOT was in a nonstop battle to keep the main corridors open,” he said. That kept limited DOT resources from venturing out to secondary and local roads.
Limited resources? Yes.
“Most agencies have cut back on equipment. DOT doesn’t have that many, the city of New Bern has only a couple capable of it,” Kite said.
Fun fact: Many New Bern “city streets” are actually maintained by N.C. DOT. The city’s primary responsibility are secondary streets and residential streets, with a few exceptions.
The state sent additional resources to ENC but they did not show up in Craven County, Kite said. Some were kept in Greenville and Kinston, while the rest was diverted to the Sandhills region, Kite said.
Why the cutbacks?
Snow rigs aren’t cheap and wind up sitting in the yard unused most of the time.
“It doesn’t snow that often and that makes it hard for local elected officials to justify the expenses,” he said.
The Jan. 3 storm lasted longer than most people were prepared for. “Like hurricanes, after day three, cabin fever sets in and people want out. And they realize when they try to do that if they aren’t on a primary transportation corridor that their local roads are still covered in ice.”
DOT focuses resources on main transportation corridors in order to keep resupply lines open for food and fuel.
Because of the continuing battle to keep the main highways open, city surface streets did not receive the attention they normally would.
“I heard people had heartburn on Broad Street,” Kite said. Broad Street and other city streets remained coated with ice for days after the Jan. 3 snowfall.
Ironically, the streets may have been more passable had they not been plowed, since snow provides more traction than ice.
“We had more incidents on Day 3 than on Day 1,” Kite said.
On the bright side, perhaps due to lessons learned, the bridges were better managed than what they had been in the past, Kite said.
As for tomorrow, Kite said the forecast calls for rain from New Bern to the west on Wednesday morning, turning to snow later in the day, with 1-2 inches of accumulation.
But this snow event is more typical of the area. It was preceded by warmer days, and it is expected to get warmer on Thursday, avoiding all of the problems that were associated with the Jan. 3 snow storm.
Things are getting back to normal now that the holidays are behind us. Just kidding.
With snow and ice still blanketing the region, it’s like having an extra week off for the Christmas break. Schools have been closed since Jan. 3 and were closed again today. So much of New Bern was shut down last week, it nearly felt like Christmas Day.
According to the National Weather Service, New Bern officially received 6 inches of snow overnight between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. Breezy conditions created deep drifts in places, and sub-freezing temperatures kept the snow fresh and froze what was left, making traveling difficult.
Still, some locations, including Sonic and Piggly Wiggly, were braving the weather on Jan. 4 and serving needs. Mail delivery was spotty, however, and many businesses reduced hours or didn’t open at all.
There was enough snow that sledders had more than enough throughout the weekend and into Monday at the U.S. 70/Country Club Road interchange and at Glenburnie Park.
The ice got so bad, at least one U.S. 70 offramp had to be closed due to hardpack ice, and power was temporarily lost to the city’s emergency command center for a time on Thursday. Still, city officials worked overtime and staged equipment on all sides of the rivers to ensure all sections of the city received as much attention as possible.
Still, Valerie Noel Perry, a Craven Street resident, was not a fan of the city’s handling of this snow event.
Circumstances resulted in her making two visits over the past few days to the CarolinaEast Medical Center Emergency Room, which she described as packed. Crossing the street to Walgreens to fill a prescription, she found it closed. Crosswalks and sidewalks were coated with ice and left untreated.
Minor streets were covered with ice for days, and even several major streets were still covered with ice by the weekend. Even during the New Bern Post’s interview with her on Monday, while she was a passenger in a car, there was an ice-related crash right in front of her on Dr. ML King Jr. Boulevard in front of the IHOP restaurant.
Frustrated by responses she heard during calls to Mayor Dana Outlaw, City Manager Mark Stephens, and her alderman, Sabrina Bengel, Perry got on the phone with Raleigh, starting with the Governor’s Office and working her way down.
She even requested the N.C. National Guard be mobilized.
“I’m outraged by what mayor said,” Perry said. First, the phone number listed on the city website was inactive and she had to track down the mayor through his grandson. When she suggested the city lay down sand to improve traction on streets and sidewalks, she said Mayor Outlaw had not heard of such a measure.
Perry said she is a retired lawyer from Boston who has lived in New Bern for a year and that she loves New Bern, but does not like how it has responded to this emergency.