Green Hope Helps Those Affected by Hurricane Florence



Hurricane Florence landing near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

By Uma Bhat, Green Hope High School

Over the past few weeks, Green Hope students sheltered safely in the Triangle have cheered in response to canceled school days and a lack of homework through an abundance of snacks and stockpiles of food. However, just two hours east, beaches, homes, and families lay destructed in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

“Our family had to evacuate for eight days and my classes at UNC-Wilmington won’t resume till October 8th. Catastrophic damage has happened in Pender County [Topsail, NC].  Our beaches have taken a huge beating and so many lost homes due to flooding.”

Mary Clare, a student at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is no shielded victim; her family, friends, and home were among the casualties in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the catastrophic storm that hit Eastern North Carolina just two weeks ago. Although students at Green Hope in Cary (N.C.) returned to ordinary life about four days after the storm, Mary Clare and others living in the Coastal Plains of North Carolina have seen local businesses, neighbors, and friends suffer from prolonged flooding and the backlash of strong winds.

Watching the storm unfold, not knowing if family was safe, was surreal.”

— Mary Clare

“Every person probably has their own rating scale, but as a community I would say Hurricane Florence is hopefully a once in a lifetime event.” She continued. “Multiple friends and family members have lost their homes and businesses — watching the storm unfold, not knowing if family was safe, was surreal.”

The untimely strike of Florence began Thursday the 13th; although there was little to no damage caused to the Green Hope vicinity, Eastern NC was subjected to throttling winds and mass flooding. Mary Clare’s school, UNCW, suffered blows to several campus locations, including multiple academic halls. An anonymous Green Hope system claimed to see “destroyed local stores” and other wrecked debris from the storm while visiting her beach house in Emerald Isle.

Authorities claim that the storm surge from Hurricane Florence, a Category 1, was equivalent to that of a Category 5 Hurricane; an article published by Vox explained that the storm surge was predicted to be nine feet, an amount of water they label “a wall of water nearly the height of a basketball hoop” — or, in another statement, the amount of water surged as a result of the Hurricane would be enough to make it “like being submerged in a diving pool”. As a result, many locals chose to evacuate. including Mary Clare, whose father rode out the hurricane in N.C. to take care of family pets while Mary Clare, her sister Molly, and her mother took refuge in Florida. Even though time has passed, the amount of inundation in Eastern North Carolina has left quite an impression.

In Wake County, Green Hope’s location, multiple areas were subjected to severe flash floods and power outages. Ridhima G., a sophomore, described the lashing winds from the storm as “extremely strong”: “The winds from the hurricane were very strong and caused the trees in our backyard to bend violently. We were very afraid that one would break and fall on our house but fortunately none did.”

Luckily, many Falcons whose family own homes in Eastern NC were spared from the fallen in roofs and rotted wood poles. Wendy Patton, 15, whose family owns a beach house north of Wilmington, stated that their property “ended up being fine” despite the “around two feet of water” remaining after the hurricane. The anonymous source mentioned from earlier did not spot too much damage done to her own beach house either, despite the harm dealt to estates directly on the beach.

Aside from the direct impacts on friends, family, and other citizens, Hurricane Florence has dramatically altered the environmental status quo in the North Carolina coast, combining with man-made factors to create a mayhem.

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House-fronts are littered with stockpiles of damaged material; according to the anonymous source, the damage here was “calm” but on a street with multiple stores, roofs and signs were wrecked.

Ms. Magee, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Green Hope, stated: “There was a great deal of rain prior to the hurricane coming ashore. If the ground is already saturated, there is no more room for additional water to be infiltrated. This means that the additional rainfall was much more likely to become runoff, which increases flooding,”

North Carolina, which has a numerous number of coal-plants situated near the coast-line, was an easy target for flood-caused contamination; the amount of flooding was enough to be the catalyst for a predictable chain-reaction. When asked about the effects of the hurricane in relation to pollution, Ms. Magee elucidated: “The greatest impact-other than the devastating impact of the floodwaters — could be any long-term water contamination that results from flooded hog waste pits and coal ash ponds. The NC Water Alliance is currently conducting tests to check the water quality in the flooded areas and in the rivers that are downstream from these contamination sources. Early reports indicate that there was a breach of coal ash ponds into the waterways. The Waterkeeper has said the early tests show elevated levels of arsenic and lead.”

The extent of this pollution is yet to be determined, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental quality. According to the Fayobserver, sterilizing plants for water “reported waste spills as a result of the heavy rainfall. Treatment plants in the region reported that hundreds of thousands of gallons spilled into local waterways.”

However, what is easy to estimate is the concentration of this damage. Coastal North Carolina is the draining point for multiple rivers dumping their loads into the ocean; if coal contamination has breached into these river loads, it’s safe to determine that the pollution will spread to the ocean.

“With 32 coal ash sites in our state, it is crucial that more secure storage methods are developed. Until that happens (or we break our coal addiction), we need to encourage more stringent (not less) regulations on the storage sites. The same concerns need to be address for our hog industry. We are currently the 2nd largest hog producing state. There are over 3300 waste lagoons in our state and several were damaged and overflowing during Florence.”

For now, North Carolinians can take the calamitous effects of conjoint pollution and flooding as a lesson to heed.

In light of the catastrophic damage caused by Florence’s Category 1 winds and Category 5 level damage, the Green Hope student body has come together in order to help the cause of rebuilding Eastern NC under the movement “We Will Rebuild”- an effort to aid friends, family, and fellow citizens affected by the storm. Student donated stockpiles of bottled water, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, canned food, blankets, baby food, and waste bags to the cause of Hurricane Florence. On Friday, the boxes of contributions were hoisted into a truck and sent to Eastern North Carolina, where students hope their materials will assist efforts to rebuild.

“I wanted to help those who were affected by the hurricane for multiple reasons. It broke my heart seeing our coast destroyed by Florence and watching clips of Wilmington on the news pushed me to step up and show my support to the people in my community who were affected,” said Antonia M. Gomez, a student volunteer. “Even though Wilmington isn’t my local community, I one day hope to attend UNCW and for it to become my home. The feeling I get from helping others is the best feeling in the world and just knowing my school got to contribute is so amazing to me.”

This story was originally published on Falcon News Feed on October 4, 2018.