Kinston business, property owners look to break flooding cycle

September 25, 2018

A restaurant owner in Kinston is recovering after Hurricane Florence and looking toward flood prevention.

Flooded out by Hurricanes Floyd, Matthew and now Florence, intensive cleanup is part of the business plan for Kings Restaurant, an institution in Kinston.

Instead of getting ready for buy-one-get-one-free dinner Tuesday night, owner Joe Hargitt was cleaning.

Once Florence had passed, workers transitioned from pushing barbecue to pushing water.

Longtime Kings staffer Edna Houston said she misses her customers.

“It’s frustrating scrubbing, and, you know, I’m a people-person,” she said. “I love my customers, but you have to start all over again.”

The restaurant has been in Wilbur King’s family for 82 years, so he’s used to flood, cleanup, repeat. But he and Hargitt want to end the cycle.

They and other property owners across Kinston are talking about taming the Neuse River.

“Do something about the river,” Hargitt said. “Fix the bottle necks.”

Otherwise, Hargitt said, severe flooding will happen again.

“We got about five or six bottlenecks that need to be drained out,” he said.

As Gov. Roy Cooper stopped in Kinston on Tuesday to thank first responders and survey damage, he talked about solutions like moving property and improving drainage.

“We’re going to be coming forth with a package both from the federal side and the state side for not only recovery but for mitigation and prevention as well,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to be smart about this.”

King said there may be enough money in prevention if the government didn’t didn’t have to spend it in recovery so often.

Recovery and prevention funding will be discussed during a special legislative session next week.

As for Kings, the restaurant is set to reopen next Tuesday.

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