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Wilmington, N.C, Residents Trying To Cope From Hurricane Florence Damage

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Wilmington, N.C., the brunt of Florence continues to plague the city. Wilmington is still mostly cut off from major roadways because of flooding. David Boraks of member station WFAE sent this report.

DAVID BORAKS, BYLINE: Wilmington sits on a peninsula with the Cape Fear River to the west and the ocean to the east. Ever since Florence roared in, high water has flowed into the city from both sides. But there seems to be a false sense of calm here today because most of the wind and rain is finally moving away. Upstream water and flooding will remain a problem for some time, though. And many here lack basic necessities - electricity, food and gasoline. More than 80,000 people are still without power, about half the customers in the entire county. That means it's a cash-only economy here right now. And that's a problem for people like Donnie Butler, who buys his food with an electronic benefits card.

DONNIE BUTLER: Right now, we're struggling for food. Everybody downtown that's open don't take nothing but cash. I don't have any, so things is tough right now.

BORAKS: Butler and his pregnant wife chose to ride out the storm in their downtown apartment. They had no car to get to a shelter. On Sunday, he rode his bicycle a few miles in search of a grocery that would take the card, without luck. For people with nowhere else to turn, county officials plan to set up three food distribution centers tomorrow. State police led a convoy of 20 trucks from North Carolina's Fort Bragg to Wilmington last night. They transported enough food to feed 60,000 people for four days. For many, the problem may be getting to those centers. Most gas stations are still closed, either because there's no electricity for their pumps or no fuel. Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo says they're working on that.

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BILL SAFFO: When I talked to the governor yesterday, they were going to try to get some trucks with high water capabilities to get some of those gasoline and fuels into the city as quickly as possible.

BORAKS: Public safety has not been a significant issue after looting at a dollar store over the weekend brought a citywide curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. For most residents, the biggest problem is cleaning up from the devastation left by 105-mile-an-hour winds Friday. Shirl Jones describes what happened to her house in an older neighborhood near downtown.

SHIRL JONES: That tree that's blocking the back door back there.

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S. JONES: And we have a leak in the house.

BORAKS: They got power back Sunday, thanks to a crew from Ohio. Phylicia Jones is worried her kids won't be going back to school anytime soon.

PHYLICIA JONES: These children need to go back to school. They bored. The teachers ain't sent no homework. They knew the storm was coming all week.

BORAKS: Business owners across the city are trying to figure ways to get up and running again. William Mellon owns Manna restaurant downtown. He shut down last week, and he and his family have been living in the storefront for days now. The windows are still boarded up. There's still no power. And most employees are scattered around the southeast. He hopes to be open with a small menu by midweek.

WILLIAM MELLON: But as far as us going back to being, you know, 35 employees, it's - it'll probably be a week or so at least.

BORAKS: In Wilmington, getting back to normal is not going to come quickly. Until power is restored, gas is available and the streets dry out, it'll likely take a series of operational baby steps. For NPR News, I'm David Boraks in Wilmington, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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