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Top 10: Most memorable local news stories of 2018

December 24, 2018
Two months after Hurricane Florence came ashore, many North Carolina residents are still trying to put their lives back together.

Here’s a look at the 10 most-read stories on WRAL.com in 2018. Hurricane Florence, business news, recalls and lottery wins topped the list.

Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina during the second week of September. The deadly storm’s strength was compared to Hurricane Hazel, which struck North Carolina as a Category 4 storm in October 1954. Although Florence was not a Category 4 storm when it made landfall in Wilmington on Sept. 14, the storm moved slowly, causing devastating flooding and wind damage in North Carolina’s coastal communities, stranding animals, displacing homeowners and prompting hundreds of water rescues and exorbitant power outages.

WRAL provided 75 hours of continuous coverage throughout the storm, sending crews to the coast and even to South Carolina to report on Florence’s impact. A collection of WRAL’s complete coverage, including weather reports, survival stories, photo galleries, video and more received record-breaking visits along with this time-stamped story meant to keep readers informed with minute-by-minute updates.

Kroger announced in June that it would close all stores in the Raleigh-Durham area by mid-August, causing 1,500 people to lose their jobs. Kroger executives said the local grocery store market was oversaturated, adding that, as a result, the company was not able to grow their business in the way they had hoped.

Kroger sold all 14 Triangle stores before fall, with Food Lion, Crunch Fitness and Harris Teeter taking over some locations.

Mike Peterson walked out of a Durham County courtroom this year a convicted felon but a free man after pleading guilty to killing his wife more than 15 years ago. The story of the 73-year-old novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate became well-known starting with the Dec. 9, 2001 death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s mansion.

Silent Sam, a Confederate statue that stood for years on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, was toppled by protesters in August.

The story garnered national attention as proponents for and protesters against the statue dueled around the empty pedestal months after it was removed, prompting several arrests and safety concerns that were compared to the deadly protests surrounding the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The statue is being stored while officials decide where its next home will be. A proposal made by the UNC Board of Trustees in December to move Silent Sam inside a new history--focused building created more protests from both sides and was denied by the Board of Governors. The statue’s fate remains undecided.

A romaine lettuce recall made national news in November after 22 people became infected with a strain of E. coli in 11 states. Even though North Carolina was not one of the states impacted by the outbreak, experts asked everyone, including restaurants, to throw all brands of romaine away.

A tiny story meant to help people learn their flood risk during Hurricane Florence brought in record-breaking page views. Although Florence’s impacts were most severe along the coast, people in Raleigh and across central North Carolina were also asked to move to higher ground during the storm as rivers rose and roads flooded.

A Raleigh woman was arrested earlier this year after video circulated on Facebook showed her one-year-old child smoking. The baby was placed in child protective services, and the 20-year-old mom was charged with two counts of felony child abuse, contributing to delinquency and possession of marijuana.

A WRAL News review of court records revealed that Raleigh police have used search warrants to demand Google accounts from not just specific suspects but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime. These warrants often prevent the technology giant for months from disclosing information about the searches not just to potential suspects, but to any users swept up in the search.

The story features interactive content, examples from numerous cases and snapshots of court records.

In February, a Durham woman stopped at a gas station on Guess Road to get a Mountain Dew and 12 chicken wings with teriyaki sauce.

While there, she decided to purchase a Million Dollar Fever scratch-off ticket that ended up being a $1 million winner.

In April, more than 200 million eggs distributed from a Hyde County farm were recalled due to a possible salmonella contamination. The eggs were sold at Food Lion and Walmart stores, and the FDA reported at least two related illnesses.

Take a look at more Year in Review content for 2018.

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