This story is part of an ongoing anniversary series on Hurricane Florence, which struck in September 2018, and the storm’s lingering effects on Carteret County and its residents.
MOREHEAD CITY — With an estimated $13.5 million worth of damage to buildings from Hurricane Florence, the Carteret County school system continues repairs one year later.
So does Carteret Community College, which sustained more than $1 million in damages.
For the public school system, work began at the end of August to replace the roof on the cafeteria building and athletic field buildings at Morehead City Middle School, where a tornado damaged the building during Florence.
“We had three or four trees fall on the Morehead Middle roof and one punctured the roof,” Keith Maready, construction manager for the school system, said. “We’ve repaired the interior of the building, but we need to finish up the roof.”
Mr. Maready hopes to see the nearly $500,000 project finished by the end of October.
In addition, Mr. Maready said he is preparing documents for the replacement of a large portion of the roof at Croatan High School, which took a hard hit from the hurricane.
“We have close to 80,000 square feet of rubber roof membrane to replace at Croatan,” Mr. Maready said Wednesday. “That’s in addition to the replacement of the roof and gym floor. That work was completed in January.”
Mr. Maready anticipates having the final phase of the CHS roof project ready for bid by November, and it will take most of the school year to finish the work. He didn’t have a final cost for the replacement, but he anticipates it being about $400,000.
Another project yet to be finished is the installation of five modular units to replace those damaged at White Oak Elementary School by high winds and rain from Florence. The units have been delivered and set up, but installation of the flooring, electrical, phone system, internet and intercom system has not been finished, according to Principal Terri Brett.
Mr. Maready said there are still other, minor repair projects taking place at schools as well, such as shingle replacements and soffit repairs.
The majority of the repair costs are being handled by insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state funds set up to assist school districts impacted by Florence.
According to a press release issued Monday by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Carteret County Schools has been awarded $12.5 million in Florence disaster recovery funds so far.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Mr. Maready, who has overseen major repair projects for the school system since the Category 1 storm hit the county Sept. 13-14, 2018.
As soon as it was safe to access school buildings following Florence, he and other school officials were faced with getting dehumidification teams into the county to begin drying out buildings. Thanks to that effort, the county school system was closed 15 school days, compared to other school districts that were closed for weeks because of excessive moisture and mold.
Other county schools that sustained major damage during Florence included Broad Creek Middle School, which had its gym floor and roof replaced, along with other interior repairs. That school is now complete, according to Mr. Maready.
East Carteret High School also suffered major damage from flooding, especially in its auditorium. The grand reopening of the auditorium was March 15. The school system opted to make improvements to the auditorium when repairs were underway. Those include new seating, lighting upgrades, new carpet and more.
Other major repair projects that have been completed in schools during the last year include repairs to the West Carteret High School auditorium and weight room, the Hibbs Building at Newport Elementary School and outbuildings at CHS.
Another critical issue schools faced was the replacement of several damaged chillers.
In retrospect, Mr. Maready said he’s pleased with the progress the school system has made.
“Having the availability of resources has been the biggest challenge,” he said.
Another big part of the recovery process for the school system has been the many employees and students who were displaced or had homes damaged by Florence.
The Carteret County Public School Foundation has assisted families and employees with home repairs. Tabbie Nance, who oversees the distribution of foundation funds, said to date, the foundation has received more than $410,000 in donations designated to help families recover from Hurricane Florence. Of those funds, $322,000 has gone to rebuilding projects.
Those wanting to help families can make donations to the Carteret County Public School Foundation, 107 Safrit Drive, Beaufort, NC 28516.
As for CCC, college officials are faced with making repairs to the eroding campus shoreline that sustained major damage during Hurricane Florence.
Of particular concern is a 273-foot section that contains a bulkhead and seawall in front of the Bryant Student Center and the Crystal Coast Civic Center. That section was damaged by 3 feet of storm surge, which caused a concrete sidewalk to collapse and rip-rap to be destroyed.
While that section is of major concern, CCC Plant Operations Director Steve Sparks said about 1,400 feet of shoreline, from the Howard Building to where the college’s property ends at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, sustained damage.
Mr. Sparks estimates it will cost $908,808 to make needed repairs. So far, the college has received $213,059 in FEMA reimbursement funds and $300,000 in state Hurricane Florence Recovery money for the project. That leaves the college $395,749 short. However, CCC is applying for additional FEMA funds.
Mr. Sparks said he’s working with Arendell Street Engineers in Morehead City and the N.C. Coastal Federation to design a plan. He’s also proposing to bid the project with alternates in case the college is unable to fund the entire project.
Once the plans are finished, he will send them to the State Construction Office in Raleigh for review and approval.
He estimates it will cost $49,161 for the engineering contract, $163,898 for repairs to the bulkhead and seawall and $695,749 for shoreline mitigation.
The proposed plan calls for replacing unclassified fill and hydro seed slurry at the shoreline and bulkhead, repairing the sidewalk and recovering and resetting angular rip-rap at the shoreline and drain outlet. The college is also looking at adding geotextile fabric and bioengineering with sea oats.
“We want areas of the shoreline to be sustainable,” Mr. Sparks said.
As for other hurricane damage repairs, Mr. Sparks said the college has selected Triangle Roofing Services of Zebulon as the successful bidder for the replacement of the McGee Building roof, which was damaged during the hurricane. Because of the $618,700 cost of the project, Mr. Sparks said the college has sent the bid paperwork to the State Construction Office for final approval.
Damaged pilings in front of the Howard Building are being replaced, and part of that project involves putting in a floating dock.
In addition, Mr. Sparks said he continues to work on the replacement of the college’s greenhouse that was damaged during the storm. The college will receive a new greenhouse, paid for with FEMA funds, to be located on east side of the Howard Building, which houses the aquaculture technology program. It will be late fall to early winter before construction begins on the greenhouse.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.