Margaret Spellings visits Pembroke

Margaret Spellings talks with Community and Civic Engagement Director Christie Poteet.

Margaret Spellings talks with Community and Civic Engagement Director Christie Poteet.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings visited Pembroke to thank volunteers for providing local assistance after Hurricane Matthew. She talked to students and employees about relief efforts and visited the Care Resource Center, which is operated by the Office for Community and Civic Engagement. The office runs a food bank and organizes volunteers to staff it. Spellings also brought donated supplies from other schools in the UNC system. She praised UNC Pembroke for helping out, even in the face of its own damage and loss of utilities for days, “it’s terrific to see a community to come together as this one has an aftermath of Hurricane Matthew I mean they’ve made a ton of progress in a short period of time. UNCP has probably, you know about 2 million dollars worth of damage. Governor McCrory has asked me to serve on the recovery commission and I intend to take what I’ve learned today back to that meeting on Tuesday morning. So I’m proud of y’all here in Pembroke and you know we’re here for the long haul.”

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Robeson County devastated by flooding

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

Much of Robeson County is still recovering from the flooding damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. Despite the rumors, the levee in Lumberton did not actually break, though the Lumber River did overflow its banks in numerous locations. Many homes in the area were flooded by knee-deep water or higher. Emergency shelters were set up in county schools that also had no power. Estimates were as high as 2,000 people being displaced. The campus reopened on Monday, and Chancellor Cummings used the opportunity to make a formal address to employees and to any students who had returned ahead of Tuesday’s classes. He was joined by Student Body President Logan John. The Chancellor made a point to raise spirits despite the challenges Hurricane Matthew left. He ended his speech by reminding attendees about UNCP’s mission and how it relates to this disaster, “In closing, we talk a lot about our mission— about changing lives through education. Over the past 11 days, the lives of many of our students and employees have been profoundly—profoundly impacted. For them this is a critical time, for them their lives, their frame of reference now forever for the rest of their life will be before the storm, and after the storm. This disaster has the potential to derail dreams, to derail visions, to derail ambitions. UNCP can not allow that to happen and we will not allow that to happen because this is where people come to vision, this is where people come to dream and where dreams come true. We are going to stand by you people, we are going to make this happen.”

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Military and civilian rescues continued during the week

Courtesy of North Carolina National Guard

Courtesy of North Carolina National Guard

Flooding in North Carolina kept the National Guard busy as they performed water rescues throughout the state. Lumberton is one of the cities inundated with high water after Hurricane Matthew. Of the known deaths blamed on Matthew nationwide, at least 17 were reported in North Carolina. The flooding continued in some riverside towns where boat and helicopter crews have rescued thousands. Major rivers in the state were expected to be above flood stage for most of the week after the hurricane.

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Shelters being consolidated as utilities restored

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

According to the Robesonian Newspaper, there are 290 people remaining in emergency shelters in the county. There were seven shelters serving the county originally, some were schools, who at least had running water if not electricity, such as South Robeson High School . Those have now been consolidated to two facilities. Various distribution sites have been set up around Robeson County for clothing and other supply donations.

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Hundreds rescued by air or boat

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

Rescue teams in North Carolina were using helicopters to pluck people from their roofs, and boats to reach people down below. Emergency crews in Lumberton say they were trying to save some 1,500 people who were stranded by the flood. The FAA suspended flights in the area so choppers could go in more safely to rescue people, while officials stressed that people not try to drive their cars through flooded roads, where the depth can be deceiving. Deaths during the hurricane were attributed to drowning in cars and ditches.

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Campus flooding and power outage takes its toll on students

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Sidewalks and roadways are nearly completely covered in water outside Lumbee Hall.

The campus of UNCP lost power in the afternoon of October 8th, after Hurricane Matthew hit the region. The next morning students woke to flooded roads and parking lots; still without electricity. Several campus facilities were unapproachable, and many thoroughfares on and off campus were nearly impassable on foot, and certainly not by most vehicles. Students were encouraged to leave campus as best they could. Although no gas stations could operate, those who were temporarily stuck tried to huddle around the two solar chargers on campus. With the electricity out, cooking and refrigeration was a problem. As a solution, Sodexo served sandwiches or hamburgers, to feed as many students as they could, regardless of their meal plan status. Students were in pretty good spirits on the first day, before the long-term effects were apparent..

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Braves football team gets temporary digs after hurricane

Flooded practice field

A trailer picks up equipment from a flooded practice field for the UNCP football team.

Damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew left the UNCP football without a practice or game field for a week. It took days for the flood waters to be absorbed or to evaporate, but by that time players were staying in an out-of-county hotel and living off of fast food. Undaunted, staff in the program found workarounds, even though they themselves had trouble getting to work. It may be cliche say it took a team effort, but Coach Richardson praised that initiative and was grateful for assistance.

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