‘Thank God I got my life’

Published 8:00 pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

Staff Writer

Steve Louie knew he was in trouble when his truck alarm started going off about 4:30 Friday morning.
“I’ve never been in this type of situation, other than being in the Marines,” said Louie, who rents a home in a mobile-home park off VOA Road west of Washington.
The truck’s alarm was likely triggered by an electrical problem as floodwaters rose around it in the early morning hours. By the time those waters had reached the front door of Louie’s home, the soon-to-be evacuee knew it was time to leave.
“I knew we had to evacuate or we were going to have to swim out,” he said.
Louie and around 40 other people were taken out of the mobile-home park and surrounding communities during the morning as local creeks and streams overspread their banks, according to Ada Evans, safety officer with Clark’s Neck Volunteer Fire Department.
A number of the residents were taken out via boat and either picked up by family or friends or shuttled out on an activity bus on loan from Beaufort County Schools.
From the flood site, evacuees who had no other immediate access to shelter were taken to P.S. Jones Middle School, which was in use as a shelter Friday and would possibly be open overnight, said County Manager Paul Spruill.
The county was giving residents who had stayed in their as-yet-dry homes the option to evacuate as the water in nearby ponds, ditches and tributaries continued to rise, Spruill said.
Evans said rescue personnel had searched all of the homes in the sodden mobile-home park, and it was thought that no one who might have been in danger stayed behind.
“Anybody who wanted to leave, we’ve taken them out,” she said. “We’ve probably taken at least 40 people out already.”
The spreading water had risen another 6 to 8 inches during the morning Friday, and, at its deepest point, the water already was 3 to 4 feet deep in the mobile-home park, Evans related.
Among the people being evacuated by bus was Anna Rosanelli, who rents a house that’s situated on stilts.
Rosanelli’s home wasn’t flooded, but a great deal of water had infiltrated the surrounding yard, and a branch evidently pierced the roof, causing significant leaks.
“The whole house smelled like gas,” she said, adding the smell, combined with the rising water, alarmed her enough that she decided to go.
She sat on the bus with her cat, Tinka, resting in a crate next to her on the seat.
“She’s doing good,” she said of her pet. “She’s a little scared right now.”
Rosanelli planned to stay with her grandparents for the time being.
Alexis Riley and her roommate, Darlene Dean, live in a singlewide trailer in the back of the mobile-home park off VOA Road.
“I’m going to lose my car,” Riley said, adding the water was traveling up the steps of her home.
Dean said she just moved to the county from Virginia to start a new job.
She said both her and Riley’s vehicles were practically under water.
“We kept saying, ‘We’re going to stay,’” Riley shared. “And it kept right on raining.”
According to Theresa Porter, a shelter manager with the Beaufort County Department of Social Services, 39 people spent the night at the P.S. Jones shelter Thursday night.
Six people were being housed at the shelter as of 11 a.m. Friday, and around 20 more were expected by the afternoon, Porter said.
Most of the evacuees were coming in from VOA Road and Washington, she said.
One of the six people being sheltered was Linda Blount, who lives at the Heritage Park apartments off Minuteman Lane in Washington.
Blount said water reached her knees before she and her family left their apartment.
“Clothes and stuff got wet, the floors,” she said.
Asked when she felt the time was right to leave, Blount said, “As soon as (water) started coming in my house.”
Blount said she didn’t know where her family would go.
“Thank God I got my life,” she added.
Back on VOA Road, Louie, a former contractor in Iraq who moved to the area three months ago, said he had no flood insurance to cover his belongings. He expected to get assistance from family members who live elsewhere in eastern North Carolina.
“I’ve never needed rescue before,” he said.