NJ task force, Red Cross volunteers still helping after Florence
TRENTON — As the flooding from Hurricane Florence fades from the headlines it is still very real for residents of the Carolinas as New Jersey Red Cross volunteers and members of Task Force 1 continue to help with recovery.
National Weather Service data showed five of North Carolina's river gauges at major flood stage, and five others at moderate flood stage. The Cape Fear River is expected to crest and remain at flood stage through the early part of the week. Parts of Interstates 95 and 40 are expected to remain underwater for another week or more.
The storm dumped an estimated 10 trillion gallons of water across the Carolinas, enough water to fill 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools
"Hurricane Florence has deeply wounded our state, wounds that will not fade soon as the flood waters finally recede," Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday.
Three thousand people stayed in 49 Red Cross and community shelters in the Carolinas on Friday night.
"The American Red Cross New Jersey Region has 55 disaster workers in the Carolinas helping with Hurricane Florence disaster relief, and we are continuing to send volunteers as needed. One of our emergency response vehicles also remains on the job in the Carolinas," spokeswoman Diane Concannon told New Jersey 101.5.
Some of those workers have been in the affected area for nearly two weeks are are due to return home, but others will go in to take their place.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry said that eastern counties continue to see major flooding, including areas along the Black, Lumber, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.
Over 80 members of New Jersey Task Force 1 members who have been in the area for nearly two weeks are currently stationed in Bladen County, located inland southeast of Fayetteville. The Cape Fear River runs through the county.
"The team has been busy performing water operations as well as training with local and federal partners. They even had the opportunity to give an engineering presentation to the Bladen County Office of Emergency Management," spokeswoman Laura Connolly said.
During the week the team performed welfare checks on 45 residents and a menagerie of 125 animals including horses, goats, chickens, dogs and cats.
State Police Sgt. First Class Christian Dreyer of Pelican Island and representatives from the Task Force said they have been strategically moved by FEMA to different locations to perform their duties, especially as the storm shifted where it made landfall.
The team is made up of police, fire, and emergency medical personnel from every county in the state, and is skilled in a variety of search and rescue operations including swift-water rescue. Dreyer said one of the most important accomplishments by the team was done by its structural engineers that put in some long hours in a town with a levee that suffered several breaches.
"Our two engineers were tasked with assessing that levee. They were able, through helicopters and some pretty amazing conmputer programs, to diagnose the levee breaks and as the forecasted river heights were shown to crest they were able to anticipate what areas in that town would be flooded and what areas would be safe zones. Their work enabled the National Guard helicopters to come in and have safe landing zones to evacuate over 98 people. They did a phenomenal job."
The team members are now awaiting their next orders for their next assignment in the Carolinas, or to be sent home.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report