08/12/07 — Mayor says city 'got lucky'

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Mayor says city 'got lucky'

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 12, 2007 2:00 AM

At first, Al King thought it was just another storm.

But when his power went out Friday evening, something just "felt wrong."

So Goldsboro's mayor got in his car.

"I started driving and everything looked fine and then I see trash cans that had blown onto Jefferson," he said. "All of a sudden it was like, 'Wow. There you are.'"

Trees were down everywhere.

The streets were dark.

And then King's phone rang.

"I went out to the Day's Inn," he said. "Man, we got lucky there."

High winds had blown the hotel's roof off and created what many officials speculate was a "total loss."

Injuries were reported and families displaced.

But King said lives were spared, and for that, all should be grateful.

"Most people, they were just shocked," he said. "I mean, we got little or no warning that this thing was coming."

By Saturday morning, King said the shock had given way to motivation as he walked through devastated neighborhoods and spoke with senior citizens, teenagers and cleanup crews.

"I had to go find out the real truth for myself -- from the people. They're real troupers," he said. "It's been tough. They are out there in their yards working in the heat, but most of them, they said to me, 'Mayor, we're lucky. This could have been so much worse.'"

Even a young woman he met along the way who had just turned 16 and watched as the storm destroyed her birthday present, a new car, felt lucky, King said.

And meeting those people -- the senior citizens with trees in their yards without the strength to get them moved, the children picking up branches -- was inspiring.

King reassured residents that crews who worked "tirelessly" to clear the roadways late Friday and early Saturday will have the job finished early this week and added that he expected most residents would have power restored by this morning.

"We have work to do and we're going to do it," he said. "You can count on that. I am so proud of this crew we've got. They were out here Friday through the night and not one of them was complaining. It was about helping the people."

King said he knows the town will "recover" in time, that Friday's storm will be likely be another "tough day" in Goldsboro's history.

Still, he added, there is reason to feel blessed.

"I really feel like we dodged a bullet," he said. "We're lucky more people didn't get hurt. At least we all made it through."