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Around the Triangle, Florence spawns stories of survival, togetherness, hope

Hurricane Florence affects Raleigh’s homeless as flooding becomes an issue in some areas

Hurricane Florence forces a group of homeless people sheltering under a bridge near Raleigh's Crabtree Creek to seek higher ground.
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Hurricane Florence forces a group of homeless people sheltering under a bridge near Raleigh's Crabtree Creek to seek higher ground.

Raleigh officials are just beginning to get a handle on the number of trees and damage caused by the slow-churning, now-Tropical Storm Florence, but a moment of levity came Saturday.

A Willow Oak tree, estimated to be more than 100 years old, fell in the Raleigh Rose Garden and landed on a seemingly intact picnic table. No one was injured.

The city of Raleigh tweeted out the photo with the caption “We can neither confirm nor deny that this Raleigh Rose Garden picnic table is made of Vibranium,” referencing the metal that makes Captain America’s shield and is found in Black Panther’s home, Wakanda, in the Marvel comic books.

The tweet racked up hundreds of retweets and more than a thousand likes in just a few hours.

“It’s one of those things where you find the good in everything,” said Zach Manor, the city’s urban forester. “Sure, this is a terrible thing and ultimately we should consider ourselves pretty lucky in Raleigh when you look at what’s happening to Wilmington and the rest of the state. We have to take joy where you can find it. And sometimes you just have to laugh because it’s better than the alternative.”

The picnic table didn’t report any injuries.

-- Anna Johnson

Gov. Cooper warns against ‘complacency’

At a news conference Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper warned against complacency. Flooding is going to get worse, he said. Places that have never flooded before are in danger of taking on water, he said, so everyone should be on alert.

“The flood danger is more imminent today than when it made landfall just 24 hours ago,” Cooper said. “We face walls of water at our coast, along our rivers, across farmland, in our cities and in our towns.

“More people now face imminent threat than when the storm was just off shore. Flood waters are rising, and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life.”

-- Lynn Bonner

After a long night, first in line at the shelter

Chris Knoff’s return to Carrboro took an unexpected turn when he said a tree fell into the house where he was staying with friends this week during Hurricane Florence.

Not only did the tree damage the house, it fell on his car so he can’t drive it. He made his way to the Red Cross shelter at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill Saturday morning.

“It was a rough night,” Knoff said. “I’ve been living on about an hour’s sleep.”

Knoff said he camped out in a nearby parking deck overnight until the shelter opened at 8 a.m.

“The buses weren’t running yesterday and so it was a hike to get here,” Knoff said. “I didn’t have any other place to go.”

Knoff was the first person to register at the shelter.

Knoff is back in the area to restart his career as a genetics researcher. He said he had a room lined up before the storm but it fell through and that’s why was staying with friends in Carrboro. There wasn’t enough space for him to join them temporarily after leaving the damaged house.

“I’ve got another place but I can’t get into it until next week,” he said. “I’m glad the shelter is here. It gives me a day or two until I can move in.”

-- Joe Johnson

A dispatch from Atlantic Beach with good news

Atlantic Beach mayor Trace Cooper provided some relief for one Raleigh resident -- and likely many other concerned Atlantic Beach homeowners -- on Saturday.

Cooper drove through the town streets, taking videos of homes and cottages, then posting them on Facebook.

Bonnie Claire of Raleigh was happy to see that a beach cottage owned by her family apparently had not been damaged by the storm.

Claire posted on Facebook: “Our little cottage survived ❤️ A huge thank you to Mayor Trace Cooper of Atlantic Beach, NC for driving around posting these videos for all of us that love and are worried about our little beach town.”

On Friday, there were videos that showed flooding and some damage to Atlantic Beach businesses.

Cooper wrote on his Friday post: “It is hard to see a place you love damaged by a storm. But much of the damage is minor. Atlantic Beach is strong. Atlantic Beach is resilient. Atlantic Beach will be just fine.”

-- Chip Alexander

A homeless ‘family’ supports one another

April Butler, her fiance Brett Jowers and their two friends Steve Powley and Victoria C. Lee, were huddled together under an overpass beside Crabtree Creek, when water began to rise.



The rain from Hurricane Florence caused the creek to crest early Saturday afternoon, spilling onto the adjacent greenway trail. For some people on the trail, that meant finding a different place to run or walk.


For Jowers, Butler, Powley and Lee, who are all homeless, that meant finding a new place to rest their head at night. The rain from the hurricane is expected to continue through Tuesday, and the creek will continue to rise.


They packed their things and planned to take their duffel bags and crates filled with their belongings to a safer spot on higher ground.


“We really don’t have a real place to go,” Butler said. “We’re just finding some place to keep our stuff from being wet, to keep it as dry as possible.”


Jowers and Butler have been living under the bridge for the past few weeks. Lee has lived there on and off for a year, and Powley has lived there for more than a year.



This is the first hurricane they’ve been through together as friends. While they are unsure of their next move, they plan to stick together.


“If one eats, we all eat,” Butler said. “If one has shelter, we all have shelter.”


“We’re family,” Jowers added.


-- Jonathan Alexander


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