Coming face-to-face with Florence

Grafton family that moved from Grafton to North Carolina in June for the weather instead finds a hurricane that flushes them from their new home

A PHOTO TAKEN by a friend of former Grafton residents Darin and Jennifer Flannery shows a power pole snapped in half by Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., where the Flannerys moved in June. The couple and their son Jimi left the city just before Florence made landfall on Friday, Sept. 14, and have been living in hotels in other states.
Ozaukee Press staff

Darin and Jennifer Flannery and their 14-year-old son Jimi moved from Grafton to North Carolina three months ago for the warm weather and instead found “horrific” Hurricane Florence.  

“This has been just horrific,” Jennifer Flannery said Thursday, Sept. 13, as Florence closed in on the Carolinas. “We never expected this to happen. We moved to North Carolina for the nice weather and to be near the ocean.” 

The family has been staying in hotels in Greenville and Spartansburg, S.C., for more than a week with nightly rates between $250 and $450. 

“By the time we leave the hotel we’re going to be broke,” Flannery said. “We do take advantage of the free breakfast and we have cooked some soup and made grilled cheese in the small kitchen.”

Flannery said they hope to be able to move back to their apartment complex in Wilmington by Saturday. 

The mayor of Wilmington, Bill Saffo, announced that 61,600 homes are without power in the area including the Flannery’s, which is 4.5 miles from the ocean.

“Wilmington is in chaos and there’s no gas and the stores don’t have food,” Flannery said.

Flannery said they initially considered riding out the storm, but when the longtime residents and her employer said it wasn’t safe, they decided to prepare for evacuation.

“If the natives are leaving, who are we to stay as Wisconsinites?” Flannery said. “We had to get out of that Wisconsin mindset because this wasn’t going to be like a snowstorm.” 

The family packed three days worth of clothes and brought their important documents, laptop, bottled water, canned goods, lanterns, and most importantly Jimi’s PlayStation 4 to help take his mind off of things, Flannery said.

Prior to leaving their home, the Flannerys boarded up the windows and stored their prized possessions in the dishwasher and washing machine, which they were advised to do because those appliances can be sealed from water.

The family left Wilmington on Tuesday, Sept. 11, and it took nine hours to reach Greenville, S.C., which is two hours south of Knoxville, Tenn, their orginal destination.  

 “Our plan was to go to Knoxville, but unfortunately due to the traffic, and the darkness, fog and rain in the mountains, we stopped in Greenville,” Flannery said. 

The hurricane was suppose to hit the following day but did not reach land until Friday. Because of the delay, Flannery had to scramble to find a hotel 30 miles away in Spartansburg. She said it was an arduous journey during a flash flood with tornadoes looming.

 “It was like a scene from a scary movie or your worst nightmare,” she said. 

 Flannery, an insurance agent, said she doesn’t know what to expect when she returns home, but she knows she will be busy handling other people’s claims.

“I’ll be working 24/7,” she said. 

At least 36 deaths have been attributed to the storm and damages are estimated to be more than $17 billion, according to Moody’s Analytics. 

“We ask for your prayers,” Flannery said. “We wouldn’t wish this disaster on anyone.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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