Hurricane Florence dominated the news this past week, as the massive storm unleashed torrents of rain on the Carolinas and Virginia, with a confirmed death toll of at least 35 people, 27 of those deaths in North Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that the flooding set off by as much as 3 feet of rain from Hurricane Florence is far from finished and will get worse in certain areas of the state.
The southeastern region of North Carolina was hit hardest by Hurricane Florence. Areas like New Bern, Morehead City, Brunswick County and New Hanover County in particular, were largely impacted.
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The county seat of Wilmington escaped much of the flooding. Still, there were reports of hundreds of people waiting in long lines for water and other essentials in the city, which is still mostly cut off by rising water days after Hurricane Florence, with I-40 looking more like a river than highway.
“There is a lot of water there right now,” said Eleanor Talley, Tourism Public Relations Manager for Visit North Carolina. “We’re just getting roads back up. New Bern had a lot of water damage but the area is already accessible and already started the cleanup process and assessing damage.”
Talley emphasized that, “Most of the state has been unaffected, with little or no damage in state parks and beaches.” Outer Banks escaped the worst of the flooding, and she noted mountain areas are open.
She said some areas are still waiting for rivers to crest and water to recede.
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While some meetings were canceled or postponed as a result of Hurricane Florence, North Carolina shouldn’t see much impact in future cancellations, according to Talley, since it is mostly up and running.
Affected areas should be opening back up soon, she added. “Some communities saw 30 inches of rain,” Talley said. “Once that passes, we’ll get a better sense of how places fared.”
North Carolina for the most part will be unaffected by what is going on in a small area. Following are statements provided by three North Carolina CVB representatives in Wilmington, Raleigh and Charlotte.
Kim Hufham, President/CEO of the Wilmington and Beaches CVB:
“We will be better informed to answer specific questions once officials are done fully assessing the storm’s impact. However, we are hopeful, as we are already seeing many positive signs of recovery in Wilmington and Island Beaches.
“The Snows Cut Bridge to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach opened to residents beginning on Monday, September 17, and the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge opened to residents beginning on Tuesday, September 18.
“We are getting many positive reports of power being restored and cleanup efforts well underway, and businesses preparing to reopen throughout Wilmington and the surrounding beaches. We are continuing to work closely with local officials and tourism industry partners as the situation evolves.
“As you know, our destination is heavily reliant on tourism, so in the days ahead the Wilmington and Beaches CVB will be taking the lead on working with local stakeholders and travel partners on tourism recovery efforts. We remain confident that Wilmington and Island beaches will recover because our tourism community is #ILMstrong. We look forward to putting our best foot forward again, hopefully sooner than you may think.”
Dennis Edwards, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh CVB (Visit Raleigh):
“Raleigh/Wake County, N.C., was mostly unaffected by Hurricane Florence, which passed through our area of the state over the weekend. At this time, RDU Airport is fully-operational with on-time arrivals and departures. In addition, most of the major roads within the Raleigh area are also safe to drive on.
“Our hospitality community stands ready to welcome first responders, evacuees and visitors with open arms. In fact, many of our restaurants are donating a portion of their proceeds to help with relief efforts.
“We do not take for granted just how lucky we were here in Raleigh/Wake County, and our thoughts are with those communities within the state which need help most.
“The N.C. Disaster Relief Fund is also currently accepting contributions for Hurricane Florence damage; contributions will help with immediate unmet needs of Hurricane Florence victims and can be made online or by texting “Florence” to 20222. Together, North Carolina will get through this.
Laura Hill White, Director of Communications, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA)
“We’re in good shape in Charlotte for the most part. We had about 10 inches of rain, some flash flooding and downed trees/power lines. The eastern side of the state has fared much worse.
“We had some very small meetings cancel, but were largely OK from a bookings standpoint.
“We also created a special landing page with information and closely aligned communication efforts with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.”
Editor’s Note: Our thoughts go out to the communities impacted by Hurricane Florence and subsequent flooding. As it often goes, some of the smaller coastal communities hit the hardest still have a long recovery ahead.
We will continue to monitor the situation in North Carolina and beyond. As usual, the best way to support impacted destinations is to monitor the weather forecast and if viable, continue your meeting as planned.