Downgraded but Still Destructive, Florence Keeps Schools Closed Amid Extensive Flood Damage
Hurricane Florence weakened to a tropical storm when it made landfall Friday in the Carolinas, but the downgrade didn’t stop the monster storm from dumping record-breaking rain, causing widespread floods and damaging countless buildings in its path.
Schools were no exception. White Oak High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, for example, sustained severe flooding and damage in at least a dozen classrooms and other parts of the school, according to a video created by the school’s principal, Christopher Barnes.
The school, which serves 1,057 students, will remain closed all week.
— White Oak High (@WhiteOakVikings) September 14, 2018
There was some good news, however: According to a tweet Barnes posted, the school’s chickens survived the wind and rain.
— Dr. Barnes (@WOHS_Principal) September 15, 2018
The storm, which has killed at least 23 people so far, cut off Wilmington, North Carolina, a city of about 117,000 people that sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Three school districts in the region — Pender County, New Hanover County, and Brunswick County — have announced they will remain closed all week.
Early damage assessments:
– Preliminary info from about 1/2 of the schools.
– Some schools have major flooding issues, but most had only minor flooding.
– Access issues @ some schools due to standing water.
– Debris, some fallen trees have to be cleared from all schools.
— New Hanover Co Sch (@NewHanoverCoSch) September 17, 2018
For some school leaders, deciding whether to reopen schools was a challenge. Schools scattered throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were closed Monday, while others reopened.
Public schools in Durham, North Carolina, reopened, but the superintendent later apologized for the choice. Parents there criticized the move, citing safety concerns and continuing flooding on the roads. Nonetheless, all but one school in the district stayed open for the full school day Monday.
.@DurhamPublicSch sends statement saying that it made the best decision today it could with the info it had, but “we are sorry to our families and staff for the difficulties that came from our decision to open school.” #HurricanefFlorence #nced pic.twitter.com/rWhTBBNN6u
— Keung Hui (@nckhui) September 17, 2018
A school bus in Durham got stuck in a ditch after struggling to get through flooded roads.
Another North Carolina district opened, then released students early because of potential flooding, apologizing for any safety issues the initial decision created.
.@OrangeCoSchools closing schools 2 hours early today. Like @DurhamPublicSch, it’s also apologizing for safety issues created by opening schools today. It’s making decision by @WCPSS to remain closed look better. #HurricanFlorence #nced https://t.co/6aSePKyw3K
— Keung Hui (@nckhui) September 17, 2018
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster gave the OK for most of the schools in his state to reopen Monday, leaving the decision about when to local officials. Some districts opened Monday; others remained closed or had a delayed opening, according to local news reports.
Throughout the storm, schools and school buses have proved essential for helping evacuate those in the storm’s path and providing a safe place to stay.
Our Human Services staff are working hard to provide food and shelter to those evacuating from coastal counties like Dare, Hyde and Carteret that are expected to feel the brunt of #HurricaneFlorence. Our Knightdale High School shelter opened yesterday. pic.twitter.com/ba4XaZbxEY
— Wake County, NC (@WakeGOV) September 12, 2018
Business owners in Wilmington, North Carolina boarded up ahead of Hurricane Florence. But one took the extra step of spray painting prayers and even shelter locations on the boards. #HurricaneFlorence2018 pic.twitter.com/Tfz7tCFjdd
— Ray Bogan (@RayBogan) September 13, 2018
The hurricane, a school bus and of course, the Waffle House – Alsup’s Ark. https://t.co/HpoPTHGBEy
— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) September 17, 2018
— Alex Giles WBTV (@AlexGilesNews) September 16, 2018