08/28/11 — Damage in Mount Olive, Duplin County mostly downed trees, power lines

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Damage in Mount Olive, Duplin County mostly downed trees, power lines

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 28, 2011 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Greg Wiggins had worried for two days prior to Hurricane Irene's violent arrival about the large trees hanging over his home.

And he and people across southern Wayne and northern Duplin had reason to worry as Irene left a swath of downed trees and powers lines -- including one that pierced the roof of the Wiggins' home just off U.S. 117 Alternate north of the town limits.

Beyond that, though, there was minor street flooding across town, trees blocking West Main, North Southerland, North Church and Hillsboro streets and Smith Chapel Road, and other streets and yards simply littered with debris.

It was a similar picture in Duplin County, said Emergency Management Director Reid Southerland.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in Mount Olive or northern Duplin County. The town of Beulaville was without power and had issued a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

Wiggins and fellow firefighters had hoped to remove the limb from his house before dark, but were deterred by Irene's winds that refused to die down. Both Wiggins and his wife, Rhonda, said they were just thankful no one had been in the kitchen when the limb came through the ceiling.

"It was about 7:30 this morning, Greg had got up and had put a pot of coffee on and had gone and laid back down," Mrs. Wiggins said. "We were awake. He said, 'Do you want to go on up and get some coffee?' or something like that. I said, 'No' and it wasn't two minutes it sounded like the end of the world.

"You heard that big bump and then the crashing. Of course, I screamed for my daughter, Savannah, because she was on the other side of the house so I screamed for her. She screamed, 'I'm OK.'"

Mrs. Wiggins said they came down the hallway and saw where the limb had come through the kitchen roof.

"What we heard crashing, we have inset lighting with fluorescent lighting with six-foot tube lighting. It has glass panels that go over that. What it was when the tree branch came through those glass panels that is what we heard.

"It is probably five to six feet sticking through the ceiling. The wind at this point has not died down enough that Greg feels safe going up on the roof."

The family had cleaned up all the shattered glass and had placed buckets because water was coming in through the ceiling.

"We have towels on the floor and buckets trying to catch as much water as we can," she said. "If we had got up to get that cup of coffee, because the beeper had just gone off on the coffee pot that the coffee was finished, if we had got up that is where we would have been because that is what we do get up get coffee and stand there.

"It never cut the power off. We have lights on in the kitchen. I can't figure it out. The limb came right by the ballast."

Fire Chief Steve Martin said many calls were to answer automatic alarms.

" Of course we have a lot of trees down all over town. No real emergency, just commercial fire alarms that we had to check on those.

By mid-afternoon close to five inches of rain had fallen on the town, said Chief of Police Brian Rhodes.

A tree demolished an SUV on East John Street, while across town on West Main Street a tree damaged a guest house before falling onto the roof of the Presbyterian Church Fellowship Building.

Some parts of town lost power about 8 a.m. and the large tree that fell across North Church Street knocked down power lines and other lines. One of those lines fell across a car parked in the yard of Latisha Tyler.

"We heard it," she said. "We were in the house asleep and we heard a loud boom and the tree was down and some of the cables fell on the car. I thought it was another earthquake because it shook the house."