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County natives brace themselves for prolonged impact of Florence in North Carolina

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Former Aroostook County residents now living in North Carolina, where Tropical Storm Florence unleashed a torrent of wind and rain last Friday and Saturday, were ready to ride out not just the storm but widespread flooding that followed.

Patrick Vail of New Bern, North Carolina, lived in Houlton briefly as an infant before his father, a former Marine Corps master sergeant, was transferred to a North Carolina base in the late 1970s. Since then, Vail estimates that he has been through nearly a dozen hurricanes, remaining in his home during them all despite living near the coast.

Patrick Vail, of New Bern, North Carolina, who has many family members in Houlton, Maine, shared a photo on Thursday of one of the wooden boards protecting his home that reads “Go Away Flo.” Vail is one of many former Aroostook County residents who expected to ride out Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm that that brought heavy rain and winds to much of that state through the weekend.
(Courtesy of Patrick Vail)

“I live 25 miles from the coast and New Bern is flooding as we speak, but we are above sea level so we expect to be OK,” Vail said Thursday afternoon. “There was a mandatory evacuation order issued on Tuesday by Craven County but we’re staying here. It would be worse if we went inland. We might not have been able to get home because they usually get bad flooding there.”

The storm, initially classified as a Category 4 hurricane early last week but downgraded Thursday to a Category 2, had weakened to a tropical depression by early Sunday.

The death toll from Florence was at least 17, the Associated Press reported Monday. More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and still-rising floodwaters continued to threaten the Carolinas and West Virginia on Monday, the AP reported.

Last week, Vail and his wife, Lisa, were busy buying nonperishable food items and drinking water, as well as boarding up doors and windows in anticipation of Florence’s powerful winds, clocked at more than 90 miles per hour when it made landfall on Friday.

Vail still has both maternal and paternal family members who live in Houlton. Despite the danger of the Florence, he said he felt confident about riding out yet another storm.


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