Storm clean up continues as severe weather potential remains

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Staff photo by Cole Dittmer 

A crew from the Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Department trims broken limbs from the live oaks along West Salisbury Street on Thursday, Feb. 13, after the ice storm that swept through Southeastern North Carolina Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Impacts from winter storms Leon and Pax were abundant throughout New Hanover County but Wrightsville Beach fared well. 

Severe weather potential remains a possibility for Friday,  Feb. 21.

The National Weather Service Wilmington office released a threat assessment stating strong gusty winds could cause more downed trees and power lines.

During the January storm, three-quarters of an inch of sleet and snow were reported to the NWS Wilmington office around Masonboro with about one-half to one inch of sleet and snow reported around New Hanover County. During the most recent storm, one-tenth of an inch of freezing rain was reported around Masonboro.

Town of Wrightsville Beach offices remained open during both winter storms more than surrounding government offices.

Town offices only closed one full day during both winter storms on Wednesday, Jan 29.

Staff left early or came in late from Jan. 28 through Jan. 31 and from Feb. 11 through Feb. 13, working a total of 38.5 hours throughout seven days during the two winter storms.

“We have a small staff and most of them live fairly close,” town manager Tim Owens said. “We felt it was important to be open. … For the most part, we fared pretty well.”

Owens said any damage or additional costs from the winter storm are minimal.

The town will keep its normal vegetative pickup schedule and process to remove debris on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Owens said there would not be any delays to the beach nourishment or other town projects that he knows of from the storms.

Wrightsville Beach police chief Dan House said the department received almost no storm-related phone calls.

“As far as traffic accidents, we had none that I recall,” House said.

Wrightsville Beach fire chief Frank Smith also said the fire department was relatively quiet.

“We had about two calls for minor power line issues during each storm,” Smith said. “Fortunately, though, that’s one of the benefits of not having a lot of trees. We didn’t have near as many issues with power line problems and power outages that the City of Wilmington or New Hanover County did, because the ice never really got heavy enough to where it was bringing down the power lines.”

While the roads were covered with ice during the first winter storm, Smith said residents heeded the advice of emergency officials and stayed home or away leaving little traffic on the roads.

Mayor Bill Blair said he received about 11 phone calls on Tuesday, Feb. 11 when the power went out, but he said once they received response from Duke Energy Progress, power had already returned.

An estimated 1,733 Wrightsville Beach Duke Energy Progress customers lost power for about 45 minutes around 8 p.m. Feb. 11.

“A lot of the people called me up mainly because our power went out early,” Blair said.

Across North Carolina and South Carolina, Duke Energy restored more than 907,981 customer outages as of Monday, Feb. 17, with Wilmington and Whiteville, N.C., listed as the two areas hit hardest in the state with outages.

In New Hanover County, about 50,000 of the 116,000 Duke Energy Progress customers lost power at some point during the most recent winter storm. In March, New Hanover County Commissioners will reflect on and assess storm response.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had ice like this. We’ve had snow periodically and some of those snowfalls in the 27 years I’ve been here have been very heavy going all the way back until we had over a foot in 1989,” Smith said. “… It really could have been much worse for us. Preparing ahead of time and having a plan for how to react safely to events like that is really important. The time to do that is before the event happens.”

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