DOT sets up relief pipeline to Wilmington
Flooding has effectively cut Wilmington off from the rest of the state following Hurricane Florence, but state officials have created a lifeline to get relief supplies to the coastal city.
The state Department of Transportation was able to clear debris from one route into Wilmington, and utility crews cleared downed power lines, Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said. Once floodwaters receded, supply trucks started moving, he said.
“We’re pushing supplies as hard as we possibly can,” Trogdon said at a news conference.
The trucks are loaded with food, water and other emergency supplies for stranded residents.
State officials didn’t identify the route, saying they don’t want to encourage people who evacuated from the area and others from trying to get into Wilmington, which still has extensive damage from the storm.
“We do not want evacuees to go back,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “We don’t want that to happen right now – too much going on.”
Trogdon said anyone who tried to drive back into Wilmington on the route wouldn’t be stopped, but he tried to discourage such efforts.
“We’re pushing hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles, so those have priority,” he said.
Officials are concerned that continued flooding in the coming days could again cut the route off, Trogdon said, so officials are trying to get as much relief supplies to the area as soon as possible.
Statewide, more than 350 primary roads were closed because of flooding, as of Monday morning, and nearly 1,200 roads overall, Trogdon said.
DOT was making headway on clearing roads into Carteret, Craven and Jones counties on the central coast, but continued flooding made access to counties near Wilmington, including Pender and Brunswick, more difficult.
Flooding also threatened to close Interstate 85 near China Grove in Rowan County and U.S. Highway 74 between Charlotte and Rockingham, Trogdon said.
“The crisis in North Carolina continues,” Cooper said. “For many parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate. Floodwaters are rising as rivers crest, and they will be for days.”
Florence has claimed 17 lives statewide, and nearly 500,000 people remain without power, he said. More than 14,000 people remain in scores of shelters across the state. More than 2,600 people and 300 animals have been rescued from flooded areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has added Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Lenoir, Jones, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne counties to the disaster declaration, and Cooper said the state has asked that Hoke and Scotland counties be added as well.