Fourth storm fatality confirmed in Lenoir County; U.S. 258 reopens

Published: Oct. 13, 2016 at 7:45 AM EDT
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Lenoir County says a fourth person has died there as a result of Hurricane Matthew, while another major highway has reopened.

Sheriff Ronnie Ingram says the body of 55-year-old Timothy Fisher was found is a small metal outbuilding behind Neuse Sports Shop.

The sheriff says the man lived in the building, which was some 30 yards into the woods.

"He had like food and stuff that was hung up on the wall and that stuff wasn't wet, so we don't know if he laid down and went to sleep and the water got over his head, but if he had stood up, the water would not have been over his head," the sheriff said. "For that reason, we don't know if he had other medical conditions or what."

Ingram says an autopsy will determine the exact cause of death.

Lenoir County now has had the most storm deaths in the state. The total across the state now stands at 27.

Another major highway in the county reopened Wednesday afternoon. U.S. 258, between Will Baker Road and U.S. 70, had been closed for a week due to the flooding.

The King Street bridge and Highway 11 south of Kinston remain closed.

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Even though U.S. 70 has reopened, access to downtown Kinston is still limited.

The King Street bridge across the Neuse River remains closed, although water never actually came up over the span.

Drivers have to access downtown via West Vernon Avenue because the Queen Street bridges remain closed due to construction.

Those bridges on Queen Street were supposed to open six months ago, but have been plagued with delays. The latest deadline missed was last Friday.

The DOT says they are still waiting for waters to recede before inspections can be made on King Street.

Wednesday morning, the river stood just above 23 feet, down from the record on Friday of 28.31 feet.

In Lenoir County, Highway 55 east to New Bern opened back up to traffic this morning.

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A major highway that's been closed because of flooding has reopened to all traffic in Lenoir County.

Business owners along the U.S. 70 Bypass in Kinston were able to get to their businesses starting at noon.

Lionel Stapleford owns Stapleford Marine and says he cried a little bit when he saw the damage up close for the first time Tuesday.

He still cant get inside but he already knows he's looking at major property damage and significant loss.

And while he's no first timer when it comes to flooding, he says it's still a difficult and long process.

However, he is staying positive and hoping they'll once again be able to clean up and start over.

Around 1:45 p.m. the DOT allowed all traffic on the major east-west highway.

The highway closed Wednesday evening as the Neuse River covered it with water.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the river stood at 24.02 feet, down from Friday's record of 28.31 feet.

Other highways that have reopened today include:

*Highway 58, south of U.S. 70.

*Neuse Road, from British Road to Highway 55.

*Highway 903 near Seven Springs.

Highway 11 to Deep Run is barricaded as there is still water on the road. There is no timetable for its reopening. South King Street, near the Neuseway Nature Center, also remains closed.

Meanwhile, Kinston police say a curfew has changed to only areas affected by the flooding, and no longer citywide. That curfew for flooded areas is from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

The city says the following streets are now open:







Donations for Lenoir County flood victims are being accepted at the former Expressions location at Vernon Park Mall. If you would like to volunteer, contact the Kinston-Lenoir County Parks & Rec at 252-939-3332.

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The Neuse River in Kinston continues to drop on Tuesday, allowing one major road in the city to reopen.

West Vernon Avenue--also known as U.S. 70 Business--is now open to both eastbound and westbound traffic. The highway had been closed at Hull Road last week due to the Neuse River flooding.

The river this morning stood at 24.52 feet, dropping from a high on Friday of 28.31 feet. The Neuse is expected to fall out of major flood status early Thursday morning.

The U.S. 70 Bypass around Kinston remains closed to traffic, forcing east-west drivers to detour into Pitt and Craven counties.

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Rushing water is still flowing across Springhill and Herritage Streets in Kinston, flooding the roads and the back of a park.

Just across Queen Street, there are also several roads that are closed or impassible because of flooding, including parts of Lincoln Street where Cathy Murrell lives.

"I just look up and just have faith and not look at what I see," she says. "I had to do that a whole lot during this flood right here, not look at my situation, because it could have been my life."

She points to her trailer, which still can't be reached, and wonders what kind of damage she'll find when she does make it home. Thankfully, her mother also lives down road and she's been able to stay there some nights.

"It's been a long journey, you know what I'm saying," explains Murrell. "But like I said, it spared my momma's house and I'm waiting to see if the water's going to be in my house or not, so I'm just praying to God that it didn't, that He spared me as well."

Charles Moye's sister also lives in the area, but she hasn't come back to look at the damage done.

He says she'll continue to stay with him for several weeks and, just like when he helped her repair the damage after Floyd, he'll do it again this time.

"You never know what Mother Nature brings," he tells WITN. "Anything man puts up, God can bring it down, so hey, here we go again."

WITN was invited to ride with the National Guard Monday to see much of the flooding.

The Neuse Sport Shop parking lot is completely underwater and a nearby car wash has huge holes across its driveway from all the water.

It's one of the reasons Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram is urging residents not to drive on roadways that are still officially closed.

National Guard trucks are really the only way to travel on heavily flooded roads, which several people have gotten stranded on after trying to drive through.

At the Highway 70 bridge near the old wildlife landing, officials say the water never came up over the bridge, but it came really close.

Lenoir County officials describe some of the roads at "spongy," because of all the water damage.

In fact, some military vehicles have gotten stranded because of the roads, which is a prime example of why officials are encouraging drivers not to drive around barricades.

Lenoir County Emergency Services Director, Roger Dail, says they expect more than 800 homes to be impacted by Hurricane Matthew, plus more than a hundred businesses, but many haven't been inspected yet since the water is still too high.

"We still have a long road to go, I can tell you the recovery side is usually the hardest side, and we want to get people back to normalcy just as quick as we can, and that's what we're committed to do, but it's just going to be a long road and a lot of patience, it's going to take a lot of patience," Dail says.

He says FEMA is already in Kinston working to inspect the homes that they can and to get people registered, but he says if you need FEMA's help, you need to call them now or register online.

Dail says an Unmet Needs Committee has also been formed and if people want to send monetary donations, they can write a check to the Lenoir/Greene Chapter of the United Way.

He says water is starting to recede on major roads like Highway 70 and 258, but they won't reopen until the NC DOT inspects them for infrastructure damage, which could be later this week.


Lenoir County says they still have 200 people in Red Cross shelters on Monday.

The Neuse River in Kinston has fallen below 26 feet Monday morning, and it is forecasted to drop out of a major flood stage Wednesday afternoon.

At 5:00 p.m., gauges showed the river at 25.44 feet, dropping more than a foot in the last 24 hours.

County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail says their next big hurdle is to find temporary housing for those displaced.

U.S. 70, Highway 258 south, and Highway 11 south remain closed. Once water recedes, Dail says it could be a couple of days before the DOT inspects the roadway and allows traffic back on. He is optimistic that some of those major roads could be open by the end of the week.

Sheriff Ronnie Ingram warned victims about scammers. He said to take a picture of the contractor's drivers license, a photo of their vehicle tags, and know how to cancel a contract. He said a legitimate contractor should have no problem allowing that to happen.

A countywide curfew remains in effect from 9pm to 7am. Ingram said at some point they will change that for just the flooded areas.

Three people in the county have died from the storm and flooding. County commission chairman Craig Hill called it a countywide tragedy. "We will bounce back, this is an amazing community," said Hill. "Our heart goes out to the families who have lost people."

The county is asking for monetary donations to help the victims. Dail says those should go to the Lenoir-Greene Chapter of the United Way, ensuring to keep those funds local.

Kinston streets closed as of 5pm Monday

*Adkin, from Shine to dead end

*Bynum, from Cedar to dead end

*Cedar, from Oakmont to dead end

*Forrest, from Desmond to Lincoln

*Hussey, from Lincoln to Reed

*Jay, from Bynum to Lincoln

*J.E. Riddick, from Orion to dead end

*New York, from Shine to Lincoln

*Oakmont, from Cedar to dead end

*Orion, from Lincoln to Shine

*Reed, from Adkin to dead end

*Rochelle, from Caswell to dead end

*Sunshine, from Shine to Lincoln

*Water, from Miller to dead end

These bridges are closed:

Lincoln Street

Gordon Street

Caswell Street

Daniel Street

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The Neuse River dropped to just below the level set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 on Sunday. At 7 a.m., Lenoir County officials say it was down to 27 feet. They estimate the river level will be 25.2 feet on Monday morning. The Neuse River is forecast to remain in major flood stage until at least Wednesday.

Inspections are the next step. The NCDOT will begin inspecting roads, bridges and right of ways to make sure they are safe. Lenoir County inspectors will looking at flooding buildings and areas for damage, electrical and utility hazards, health concerns and structural integrity of infrastructure.

Residents and business owners will only be able to access their property until it is cleared by officials. Authorities say the process will take time, but inspectors are working as diligently and safely as possible.

A curfew remains in effect from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly for Lenoir County and the City of Kinston until further notice.

Lenoir County offices will be closed Monday. They will reopen on Tuesday for normal operation. All Lenoir County Public Schools facilities are closed to students through Friday. All buildings are closed to staff on Monday, but a decision on workdays for staff is forthcoming.

If the water has receded in your area, please notify the Lenoir County EOC at 252-559-1911 so that officials can be dispatched to begin inspections as soon as possible. Once previously flooded areas are cleared as safe, only residents and property owners with proof of identification will be allowed to access the area.

An interactive map of the mandatory evacuation area and current road closings in Lenoir County can be found at

Financial contributions can be made to the Lenoir/Greene United Way at All contributed funds will stay in Lenoir and Greene counties to assist families impacted by flooding.

As Lenoir County prepares to move into recovery mode, there will be a tremendous need throughout the county. Volunteers wishing to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts may call the Lenoir County Emergency Operations Center at 252-559-1911 and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.

A Community Donation Center has been opened at Vernon Park Mall in the old Expressions location behind Burger King. It will be open daily from 10am to 5:30pm.

Supplies Needed

· Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

· Towels and Wash Cloths

· Diapers

· Wipes

· Adult Diapers

· Baby Food

· Snacks

· Cleaning Supplies

· Trash Bags

· Plastic Totes

· Coolers

· Unopened Socks, Underwear and T-shirts

Crews will begin picking up storm related debris in the next few days in parts of the county that are accessible. This will include the City of Kinston, Town of La Grange and Town of Pink Hill.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been issued for Lenoir County. Operation of drones under 400ft is restricted until further notice.

A curfew remains in effect from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly for Lenoir County and the City of Kinston until further notice.

The shelters at Kinston High School and Lenoir Community College remain open. Pets can be accommodated at LCC.

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The Neuse River crested at 28.31 feet yesterday, surpassing the record of 27.7 feet set after Floyd.

The disastrous flooding stage is at 27 feet.

As flood waters slowly recede, officials will begin inspecting structures and flooded areas for damage, electrical and utility hazards, health concerns and structural integrity of roads and infrastructure. Due to safety concerns, residents and business owners will not be allowed to access their property until it is cleared by officials. Please be patient and understand that this is for your safety.

A temporary animal shelter has been setup at 431 Joe Nunn Road. They are in need of crates, carriers, water bowls and any other pet supplies folks would like to donate.

A Community Donation Center has been opened at Vernon Park Mall in the old Expressions location behind Burger King. It will be open daily from 10am to 5:30pm. #MatthewNC #Kinston

Community Donation Center

834 Hardee Rd.

Kinston, NC 28504

Supplies Needed

- Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

- Towels and Wash Cloths

- Diapers

- Wipes

- Adult Diapers

- Baby Food

- Snacks

- Cleaning Supplies

- Trash Bags

- Plastic Totes

- Coolers

- Unopened Socks, Underwear and T-shirts

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There now have been three confirmed fatalities in Lenoir County due to Hurricane Matthew, while the Neuse River is expected to crest in Kinston late today.

Lenoir County Emergency Services says the river was at 28.5 feet at Kinston, and they expect the river to remain steady near 28.6 feet tonight. The Neuse will then start falling.

Thursday, river levels surpassed historic levels that were set 16 years ago. Then it crested at 27.7 feet.

Many roads remain closed in and around Kinston and a 9 pm - 7 am curfew remains in effect for both the city and the county.

A community donation center has opened at the old Expressions, located behind the Vernon Park Mall. It will be open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Supplies needed:

• Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

• Towels and Wash Cloths

• Diapers

• Wipes

• Adult Diapers

• Baby Food

• Snacks

• Cleaning Supplies

• Trash Bags

• Plastic Totes

• Coolers

• Unopened Socks, Underwear and T-shirts

The Lenoir County SPCA is looking to set up a temporary shelter in the southern part of the county. If you have space available, with electricity and water, in the form of a building or large enclosed area, and would be willing to donate the space for stray and misplaced animals, please text or call Sherry @ 252-286-0178. The space would be needed until the flooding subsides and access is allowed to the shelter. Shelter staff and shelter volunteers would manage the care of the animals and would need to have 24-hour access.

Lenoir County enacted a debris management contract and crews will begin picking up storm related debris in the next few days in parts of the county that are accessible. This will include the City of Kinston, Town of La Grange and Town of Pink Hill. See the attached flyer for information about how to separate your debris and place it appropriately for pickup. Please ensure that your debris does not block roadways or storm drains. English -

Earlier this week, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy told WITN's Heather King that he was concerned at residents not taking evacuations seriously.

Residents we spoke with Thursday were taking notice of his warning.

"The ones that aren't taking it serious have never lived through something like this before," says Gary Hines, a lifelong Kinston resident. "We, the ones that have lived through it, we're taking it serious. I know what kind of damage it can do. I saw caskets floating down the river. I saw buildings collapse and under water."

About 150 National Guard troops are on the ground in Lenoir County and more than 200 people are currently in the county's two shelters.

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The Neuse River in Kinston has now surpassed historic levels that were set 16 years ago.

New data shows the river level near 28 feet, while Hurricane Floyd had reached 27.70. The river is still expected to crest at 29 feet Friday afternoon.

There have now been two confirmed storm-related deaths in Lenoir County.

Governor Pat McCrory says the latest death involved a driver who went around a barricade and drowned after their vehicle ended up in a washed out road.

On Wednesday, authorities said a man died the day before while trying to retrieve animals from the flood.

So far, 22 people have died in the state because of the hurricane.

Kinston has a curfew from 9:00 p.m. Thursday to 7:00 a.m. Friday.

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The Neuse River is expected to crest more than a foot above Hurricane Floyd levels as Governor Pat McCrory saw firsthand the flooding happening in Kinston today

McCrory warned people to stay out of the dangerous waters.

Already there have been 19 deaths by drowning in the state, as well as one other death because of Hurricane Matthew.

Two shelters are open with 205 occupants, and that's expected to increase.

There are 150 National Guard troops in Lenoir County and 50 Highway Patrol troopers.

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy implored people to get to high ground, as more homes and businesses are in danger of flooding now that the forecast for the Neuse will be well above the record level set by Hurricane Floyd.

Murphy is continuing to urge people in the mandatory evacuation zone to leave their homes today. There's been an ongoing effort by crews to make in-person contact with everyone asked to evacuate.

A new flood impact projection map was released Thursday, based on 29 foot level of the Neuse River. They expect the river to crest at that level Friday afternoon. You can view the new map under the "Related Documents" section on the right side of the screen.

Most major highways coming into Kinston are blocked by flood waters.

The US 70 Bypass is closed with people being detoured into Pitt & Craven counties. US 258 and Highway 58 are also closed, as is West Vernon Avenue just past Hull Road. Highway 11 south is closed toward Pink Hill, while 11 north to Greenville has reopened.

A community prayer meeting was held at Tiffany West Park Thursday morning.