KINSTON, N.C. — Less than a week after Hurricane Irene’s winds blew through Kinston, the mayor says his city has been tackling some of the worst storm damage it has seen since Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
“It’s really disheartening to see what the community is having to go through, but I’ll tell you that there has been a lot of positive things happening within our community,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said.
At the height of the storm, 12,000 customers – the city’s entire customer base – were without power. Electricity was restored to about 4,000 customers by Monday afternoon, but debris-scattered streets and yards slowed workers.
Ryan Kelley was sleeping when he heard a “big crash” about 10 feet from his bedroom, at 1210 Stockon Road. An hour later, a second tree came crashing down – this time into his guest house.
“Oh, I’m very lucky,” he said. “It could be worse, obviously.”
The storm’s strong winds uprooted trees, causing them to fall, punching a hole in Kelley’s roof and totaling his 1989 Bronco.
“I’ve driven around Kinston, and it looks pretty devastated,” he said.
Bruce Parson witnessed the devastation as well, although he prefers to call what happened to him “an inconvenience and an eyesore.”
Winds knocked down at least four trees at Parson’s home, at 2103 St. George Place. One tree fell on his house, wrapped around the chimney and punctured the roof. Another fell on his storage building, crushing it.
“We noticed trees swaying, and then first one tree fell and then four more in rapid succession, these huge oaks,” he said. “It sounded like thunder.”
The storm shook Parson’s house with so much might that it broke some of the china in his china cabinet.
“Well, it’s scary at first,” he said. “(But) we were very fortunate.”
Those both fortunate and unfortunate have reached beyond their tattered yards to help each other, Murphy said.
“We’ve had a lot of people helping neighbors, chipping in with the cost of the trees, trying to help everyone reduce their own cost,” he said.
The mayor says those traveling through the storm-ravaged city can expect heavy traffic. U.S. Highway 70 is open and full of drivers trying to get to the Crystal Coast to check on their property, Murphy said.