BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Flooding from Hurricane Florence has created “islands” of land in Brunswick County, virtually inaccessible from one another.
“They’re essentially acting as islands,” Chairman Frank Williams said. “Those areas are essentially cut off from each other.”
From Leland down to Town Creek, from Town Creek to N.C. 211, and from N.C. 211 down to the state line, residents who haven’t already evacuated are stuck.
“That’s just where the low-lying areas and the creeks are,” Williams said. “Unfortunately the flooding lived up to the hype.” When asked whether there were adequate food or gas services within the respective islands, Williams said, “there’s no power for them to be open.”
Up to 15,000 without water
Before the storm, Brunswick County cut off water services to its barrier islands. Crews are working to restore water service in those areas now, Williams said, but now, they have a much bigger problem.
Water main breaks across the southeastern part of the county have left thousands with limited or no water service. Anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 could be without water as a result of the breaks. Because of the county’s accessibilty issue, addressing these breaks could take several days, Williams said.
“Geographically, the water problems are primarily in the eastern part of our system,” the county’s senior utilities manager, Bob Tweedy, said. “In the general area in the city of Southport.”
On Saturday evening, Boiling Spring Lakes’ dam breached. Tweedy said this didn’t contribute to the loss in water service in the area. People living in Boiling Spring Lakes, St. James, Southport, Caswell Beach, Oak Island, along George II Highway and Long Beach Road are advised to boil water — if it’s running — before consuming it.
The main breaks were caused by floodwaters that eroded and exposed lines and damaged bridges with lines attached to them. For now, there’s no exact timeline on getting all of the county’s water customers back online.
“In general we are working on very little sleep,” Tweedy said.
Donald Dixon, the county’s deputy director of wastewater operations, said the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently relying on generators to operate. Though the plant has adequate fuel to operate, Dixon said they’re isolated from the rest of the county.
“We’re isolated at Town Creek right now,” he said.
Though there have been sewer overflows in the county, none have been reportable, or in excess of 1,000 gallons, Dixon said. “That may change today, staff is out working right now.”
Sunset Beach’s sewer is currently offline, but that could change before midnight Monday. After the system is flushed and bacteriological samples have been performed, Dixon said water service will then be restored.
“Conditions are changing by the hour,” he said.
Rescues, scammers, and power
Since the storm first hit early Thursday morning, over 200 water search and rescues have taken place in the county, Williams said.
On Monday afternoon, Williams participated in a briefing at Leland’s Town Hall.
“I did this in Leland because I cannot get to Bolivia,” Williams said. After checking in with Sheriff John Ingram, Williams said he was told it wouldn’t be easy to get there. “He said I could send a boat or a helicopter.”
As crews work to reestablish water, sewer and power service, William asked people still stuck to be patient. “Don’t expect things to happen overnight,” he said.
Though it may be tempting to burn storm debris, a burn ban is in effect for all unincorporated areas. Williams said the smoke can distract first responders and he encourages other municipalities to follow suit.
The county currently is working to combat scammers who are posing as authorized vendors. Williams said the county’s public utilities department has not authorized any vendors to make repairs on its behalf.
If a non-county vehicle is out making repairs to utility lines, scammers can be reported to 911, 910-253-2777, or 910-253-5383.
“Our staff has done a phenomenal job of managing something that had a lot of unanticipated challenges arise in the middle of it,” Williams said.
For the approximately 25,144 customers still without power, according to PowerOutage.Us, Williams asked neighbors to help each other out.
“If you do have power, try to help somebody who doesn’t.” For more updates, alerts and advisories, check out Brunswick County’s website.
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at firstname.lastname@example.org