Wayne Opportunity Center director Amy Hartley still recalls the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Matthew two years ago.
In addition to being without power or phone service, the subsequent flooding destroyed an undetermined amount at the site of the non-profit community rehabilitation program that serves individuals with development disabilities.
All because of a miscalculated weather forecast, Hartley said.
But instead of targeting Wilmington in October 2016, it continued on and slammed Wayne County and the surrounding area.
Not again, Hartley said Wednesday.
“We took our lessons that we learned from Hurricane Matthew and we’re doing everything we can to save what we can,” she said. “The staff are working very diligently to do what we can.”
The consumers — some who work on prevocational skills toward getting a job, while others work on basic life skills, trying to be more independent in their homes — rely on the center for the paycheck it provides as well as the consistency.
After that storm, they were displaced during reparations, finding a temporary home when Rosewood First Baptist Church stepped up and offered some space.
With Wayne County Public Schools closed in anticipation of this latest hurricane, the bulk of the consumers were not on site. They are aware of what’s going on, though, Hartley said.
“We have told them. They have been watching the weather, and they’re very keen to what’s going on,” she said. “A lot of the consumers said they were praying that the hurricane would not come and praying that it would not flood again.”
Just as it did two years ago, the center’s staff stepped up and went above and beyond to protect the George Street property.
Their effort centered around hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, Hartley said
“We got as much as we can — boxed up as much as we could, moved furniture off-site,” she said “We’re just getting everything up as much as we can.
“I think that is why everybody is calm and cool and collected. We know what problems we had last time, and we weren’t prepared.”
Hartley’s son, Daniel Hartley, was also pitching in to assist in the storm preparations.
A nursing student at UNC-Wilmington, he had been sent home on Monday so packed up his belongings and left, he said.
“I’m praying my apartment doesn’t flood,” he said.
Dwight Cogdell, whose job it is to build pallets and help consumers in the recycling area, was not working there during the previous hurricane but knows the importance of preparation.
“We’re getting everything off the floors,” he said.
Pamela Vann, instructor, was packing up boxes and covering computers.
“This time we’re prepared,” she said. “We’re making sure nothing’s in water’s way but basically cleaning up, folding up, getting it at a higher level.
“And the thing about it, I think we’re going to be OK this time versus last time.”
Taking the storm warnings seriously has actually helped alleviate some of the stress, Vann said.
“This time it’s a little bit better because we can prepare a little bit better,” she said. “I’m feeling, of course, nervous but I really don’t have that feeling that everything is going to be a disaster.”