AREA UPDATE: UNCW a ‘massive construction zone,’ routes into Wilmington still impassible


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The Sonic Drive-In on Market Street suffered damage from fallen trees in the form of a collapsed canopy from Hurricane Florence.

Tyler Newman and Meredith Hoffman

The following is an update and assessment of the effects of Hurricane Florence on UNC Wilmington, the surrounding area and eastern North Carolina.

Wilmington remains “an island”

Nearly a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, the city of Wilmington is still effectively “an island” according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

On Sept. 18, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told displaced residents that there were two safe routes into Wilmington via I-40 East Exit 373 and I-40 East Exit 385. He later walked back this statement.

“At this point in time, based on the volume of assets that we need to bring in, we would like to ask the public to hold off using those routes,” Saffo told residents of New Hanover County.

Key portions of U.S. 421 flooded near the New Hanover County line on Thursday, effectively cutting off one of the last key routes into Wilmington that had been open previously. North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said that Interstates 40 and 95 will remained closed for at least another week.

“There is still no safe, reliable route to Wilmington,” a DOT spokesman told WRAL on Thursday.

The Cape Fear and Lumber Rivers will not finish cresting until this weekend, and then it will take several more days of waiting for the waters to recede below or away from the highways.

New Hanover County Schools

New Hanover County Schools announced on Thursday it would be closed the week of Sept. 24- 28 due to residual impacts and damages from Hurricane Florence. In a letter released by the district, it was stated that the reason for the closure was to continue “conducting damage assessments, cleaning up and making repairs in the schools and other district facilities.”

There is no word yet on what the district will do to make up the days missed due to the storm.


As of Sept. 20, UNC Wilmington remained closed, with no update as of yet on the following week of Sept. 24-28. An update is expected to arrive on Friday regarding the status of the school and a possible date for reopening.

UNCW posted photos of campus to the school’s Facebook page on Thursday, visually illustrating the need for more time to allow employees and cleanup crews to assess and repair damages to structures and spaces around campus.

The post referred to the campus as a “massive construction zone” where staff could only shoot photos “where it was safe.”

Updates on residence halls have not been issued yet, but work was shown being done around Leutze Hall and along Chancellor’s Walk. Damage to Dobo Hall has been noted as “extensive” but “not irreversible” in an email from Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli to students on Sept. 19.

Most of UNCW’s online services and websites are expected to be back online early next week, after the system was shut down preceding Florence’s arrival, according to Sartarelli’s email.

Volunteer opportunities for UNCW students and alumni are also listed on the university’s Office of Community Engagement Facebook page. The link to the volunteer listings will also be at the bottom of this article.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, students were allowed to retrieve their vehicles from the university’s parking deck while being escorted by university police. On Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the university will also allow for students to retrieve their vehicles from the parking deck, according to the school’s Facebook page.

Check back with The Seahawk on Friday, Sept. 21 for any updates regarding a reopening date for campus. UNCW has committed to give students and staff notice of at least 72 hours before reopening.

Power Struggles

Electricity has still not been restored to a large number of customers in the greater Wilmington area, with numerous neighborhoods around UNCW’s campus reporting power outages, according to Duke Energy.

16,063 customers in New Hanover County are still without power as of Thursday night, with the latest estimated restoration on Sept. 23 at 11:45 p.m., according to a county outage chart provided by Duke Energy. 5,889 customers in Brunswick County and 3,158 customers in Pender County are also without power.

The total number of outages in North Carolina stands at 42,034, according to Duke Energy, which serves approximately 4 million people in the state.

These numbers do not take into effect other regions served by either Dominion Energy in northeastern North Carolina or other electric cooperatives serving various areas throughout the state.

To assist with volunteer efforts, follow this link.