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Nesquehoning native details Florence aftermath

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    Part of the Starlite Motel is washed away in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, North Carolina, on Wednesday. AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN

Published September 20. 2018 10:07AM

Hurricane Florence has moved out of the Carolinas, but the threat to residents remains, Jon Evans, anchor of WECT and Fox Wilmington, said Tuesday.

There is still a long way to go before rebuilding can happen in many of the areas hit hardest by the storm.

The former Nesquehoning resident, who has lived and worked in Wilmington, North Carolina, since 1992, has been working around the clock with his news station to bring the thousands of residents affected by the Category 1 hurricane as much up-to-date information as possible since the storm ripped through the region at a snail’s pace over the weekend.

Hurricane Florence dumped nearly 3 feet of rain in some areas of North Carolina, bringing with it strong winds, deadly surf and extreme flooding.

“Out of all the storms I have covered, I don’t think I have seen the amount of downed trees like I have with this storm,” Evans said in a phone interview Tuesday.

“There are crews everywhere removing trees off power lines, out of roads just to free up travel.”

Some areas, like in the small town of Boiling Spring Lakes, the dam broke and its three lakes drained into the town.

“The road washed away so there is nothing but guard rail hanging in some areas,” he said. “The rising rivers are going to create another problem because many rivers have yet to crest, and when they crest, it will be likely over the flood stage.

“It’s a slow process. Some areas are really hurting and the threat to them is not over yet,” Evans added. “Everywhere you turn in these communities there is damage and flooding.”

In the newsroom, covering all the details of the storm was a challenge in itself, but in addition to covering the news, the staff had to continually work at making sure they could keep broadcasting, even through tornado threats and a continued threat of losing their transmitter generator.

“We had a couple of leaks in the building and we had to keep water from getting to important pieces of equipment and the master control operations to stay on the air,” Evans said.

“We had three or four tornado warnings in the process that we had to actually take cover in an internal hallway while broadcasting.

“We did 87 straight hours on the air and streaming on our website and news app. The challenges were varied but they all had to take priority for some reason or another.”

On a family level, Evans said that the home he shares with his wife, Sheila, who evacuated to their daughter’s home in Williamsport after Florence grew to a Category 4 last Monday, fared well compared to many in the area, with minimal water damage, part of a fence being crushed and downed trees and debris everywhere, but overall the home withstood the elements and has no structural damage.

“Compared to a lot of other people, we were extremely blessed,” he said, adding that he got power back sometime Sunday.

Evans’ career in television spans over 30 years, beginning in radio at stations in the area and also doing play-by-play coverage of King’s College’s baseball and basketball games during his time in college.

He graduated in 1984 from King’s College and went on to become a sports reporter for WNEP before moving to news positions in Florida and North Carolina.

Evans is no stranger to storm coverage as well, covering quite a few since moving to North Carolina, but he said Florence had one main difference.

“Most storms that come through and as they get closer to land, the ones I have covered, moved out of here quickly at 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 mph, but this one was going 2 to 3 mph, so it just stayed here and dumped 35 inches of rain in parts of this area and 30 inches of rain in Wilmington. Unconscionable amounts of rain fell over three or four days and it just has nowhere to go after awhile.

“It’s a mess.”

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