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

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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.”

Hundreds rescued by air or boat

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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.

Hurricane Matthew shuts down UNCP for a week

car partially submerged in campus parking lot
A partially submerged Audi in the parking lot of the Caton Field House on Sunday also had at least one of its rear windows rolled down.

Fall Break was already scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but the ongoing power outage and flooded roadways and parking lots meant the entire week of classes and activities was canceled, including online classes.  The phone lines for campus police were restored by Monday.  Chancellor Robin Cummings provided this update on Tuesday, October 11:

“In an effort to facilitate information sharing, we have created a website to house frequently asked questions pertaining to academic and student affairs questions. You can submit questions to askuncp@uncp.edu. All questions and answers will be posted at uncp.edu/askuncp.

Emergencies should be directed to Campus Police at 910.521.6235 or 911.

At this time, if anyone needs counseling services, please contact campus police and they will be able to connect you with a UNCP CAPS counselor.  

 This afternoon we have fewer than 80 students remaining on campus. We assure you all students will be taken care of and have access to food and water.

 Again, if you are leaving campus, we urge you to be off the road by nightfall as conditions can quickly become dangerous in the dark. Adhere to any local curfews. The Lumber River continues to rise, which presents transportation challenges. Access to campus from I-95 is still limited at best. UNCP is still accessible from the west; please check NC DOT for road closures before leaving. Information is available at the following link: https://www.ncdot.gov/traffictravel/

 Remember, ALL UNCP STUDENTS ARE BEING FED ON CAMPUS WITH OR WITHOUT MEAL PLANS. The dining hall will be open Wednesday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

 UNCP appreciates the outpouring of generosity from fellow universities and state institutions, including NC State University among many others. In addition, we have received offers of support on behalf of UNC President Margaret Spellings and Governor Pat McCrory.

 While the safety and security of our students is our top priority, our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of southeastern North Carolina who have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew, particularly those in Lumberton, which has been especially hard hit. The university is engaged in ongoing communication with authorities to determine how we can continue to assist. Last night, the university prepared meals for National Guard and emergency operations personnel. And today I had the opportunity to interact with UNCP students volunteering at an emergency shelter at Purnell Swett High School.

True to UNC Pembroke’s core value of service, many of you have asked how you can help those in need. We encourage you to consider donating to the American Red Cross, UNCP Care Resource Center or directly to the Robeson County Emergency Operations. Detailed information about these giving opportunities was sent in a separate e-mail and will be posted on how you can help.

As for campus operations, at this time, we know utility crews are working to repair main hubs of power to Robeson County. We do not have a definitive estimate at this time on a timetable for restoration.

In addition, many of our faculty and staff continue to face hardships. We have heard many stories of our employees in heavily impacted areas of the region who are facing personal challenges associated with the loss of utilities, downed trees, and flooding at their homes. We want you to know we are fully in support of you and your families.

We will continue to update the campus community as additional information is available.

 Sincerely,

Robin Gary Cummings

Chancellor”

Schools consolidation plan draws criticism

seal of the public schools of Robeson County
Schools consolidation plan is controversial.

A plan to consolidate the schools in Robeson County has been getting mixed reviews. The proposed plan would close 30 schools and renovate five. The plan also includes construction of 13 new schools, plus a new career and technical high school. County residents who oppose the plan say they want new schools but not by crowding students into fewer schools. Parents are worried about long bus rides and the loss of a sense of community when neighborhood schools are closed.

NC Board of Elections encouraging absentee voting

graphic of a check mark on a phony ballot
Elections continue throughout the year, with state supreme court affected on June 7.

Absentee voting began last week for the June primary in North Carolina, for 16 congressional districts, including District 9, where Scotland and Robeson Counties now fall. The June primary resulted from a court order to re-draw district lines that had been gerrymandered by race. The State Board of Elections is urging people to vote by mail so that high school graduations and summer vacations don’t keep people from going to the polls. Stand-alone primaries like this one suffer from low voter turnout, yet the state supreme court is another primary race being determined on June 7th.

Man accused of pawning fire department property

cop car
Photo illustration courtesy of Scott Davidson

A man from Scotland county has been arrested and charged with felony larceny and obtaining property by false pretense. According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Eric Daniel Oxendine of Wagram is accused of stealing a saw worth almost $2,000 from North Scotland volunteer fire department and pawning it in Robeson county for $200. Oxendine was placed under an $18,000 dollar bond.

Local races decided on Election Day

seal of the Robeson County Board of ElectionsNorth Carolinians went to the polls Tuesday and Charles Graham is the presumptive winner for the North Carolina House of Representatives District 47. Graham won his Democratic primary and has no Republican opponent on the ballot in November. For the Robeson County Board of Education, four incumbents were re-elected. There were 10 candidates vying for the three at-large seats. The Pembroke mayor’s race was a do-over from the election in November, and Greg Cummings took that win, in a nearly identical reversal of the fall count. The state referendum  known as “NC Connect” passed with two-thirds of the vote. This should mean a new $23 million dollar building for UNCP’s school of Business.

UNCP stays open during storms

rainbow shows over campus buildings
A rainbow appeared over campus after the storm. Photo courtesy of Dana Reijerkerk.

February 25, 2016 — Schools in the area closed early Wednesday because of tornado warnings and forecasts of storms and flooding. Here on campus we had rain off and on until a full-blown hail storm at 5 o’clock. UNCP sent alerts when that storm hit, telling people to shelter in place. The university stayed open during the day and for evening classes. But Robeson Community College and the Public Schools of Robeson County had both dismissed by 12:30 pm. Fayetteville Technical Community College cancelled all classes after 1:00 pm.

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