County residents weather tempest

Published 12:54 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crew members prepare to replace a utility pole that snapped near Five Points in Beaufort County during Saturday’s severe weather. (Submitted Photo/Heidi Jernigan Smith/Tideland EMC)

Beaufort County was relatively unscathed by a storm system that ravaged North Carolina on Saturday, said John Pack, the county’s emergency-management director, on Monday.

“The good Lord smiled on Beaufort County this time,” Pack said. “On the grand picture … we came out really good.”

There were no storm-related deaths in the county, Pack said. There were some minor injuries as a result of people removing storm debris, he said.

Eight structures in the county suffered minor damage, Pack said.

There was no confirmation of tornadoes touching down in the county Saturday, but there was a report from a reliable source about a funnel cloud spotted near Bath, Pack said.

Across the state, at least 21 people in North Carolina died as a result of the storm system, which spawned at least 62 confirmed tornadoes in the state, but the National Weather Service said the number could be lower because some twisters may have been reported more than once.

The county’s emergency-operations center was staffed Saturday, but its personnel and resources were not burdened, Pack said.

“We were ready to do what we had to do,” Pack said.

About 5,400 people lost power during the storm, but power was restored to 95 percent of those people within two and a half hours after the storm passed, Pack said.

“The power companies said if it had not been for the firefighters (helping to clear downed trees), they would not have been able to get the power back on as fast as they did,” Pack said. “They particularly singled out the firefighters.”

Pack praised the N.C. Highway Patrol and Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance throughout the county in the storm system’s aftermath.

“EMS moved stuff to get to houses,” Pack also noted.

Some county residents lost telephone and cable TV service because the storm system damaged utility lines and poles, Pack said.

Staff and volunteers with the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, which is based in Washington, were assisting with disaster-relief efforts Monday.

“We have one volunteer that’s being deployed to Smithfield,” said Kim Richardson, office assistant for the chapter, “and then we have our director of operations, Lorrie Beach, and Michael Francis, who are on their way to Colerain  to take shelter supplies č cots, feeding equipment. … They’ll be doing a lot of canteening for the rescue workers, the firemen.”

Johnny Williams is the volunteer deployed to Smithfield, headquarters of the North Carolina Red Cross’ disaster-relief operations, Richardson said.

Other disaster-relief agencies responded to Bertie County.

“We went up (Sunday) to Colerain. … We ended up serving 133 meals and beverages,” said Lt. Chris Lyles, commander of the Washington Salvation Army Corps, on Monday. “We prayed with some of the victims. … We provided spiritual and emotional counseling.”

A mobile kitchen from Greenville was called in Monday to replace the Washington Corps’ mobile kitchen that was used Sunday in Colerain, Lyles said. The Washington Corps’ mobile kitchen developed problems, necessitating the use of the mobile kitchen from Greenville, Lyles said.

Tideland Electric Membership Corp. had 2,315 customers without power at some point during and after the storms, said Heidi Smith, spokeswoman for Tideland EMC. Most of the Tideland’s power outages occurred south of the Pamlico River, she said.

“We were not affected except in what we call our Pantego district and Grantsboro district, maybe just a few in Craven County near Ernul,” Smith said Monday.

Power was restored to most customers by  6 a.m. Sunday, she said.

Washington Electric Utilities had about 350 customers without power for a couple of hours Saturday, said Keith Hardt, WEU director, on Monday.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike