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Local crews aid disaster victims

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The city's Swiftwater Emergency Response Team worked to rescue flood victims in New Bern.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Rocky Mount and Tarboro utilities crews are helping restore power in some of the harder hit areas of North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Three crews with a total of about 15 linemen deployed earlier this week to render mutual aid.

The crews have bucket trucks, service trucks and equipment. Their first stop was the town of Laurinburg, southwest of Fayetteville near the South Carolina border off Interstate 74.

When Laurinburg is lit back up the crews will move to the next location in need of assistance, said Tarboro Town Manager Troy Lewis.

Rocky Mount was very fortunate the storm didn't severely impact the city's power system, said Rich Worsinger, the city's director of energy resources.

“We realize this has not always been the case with previous storms," Worsinger said. "Our neighboring communities have always helped us with restoring power when needed, so we are glad to return the help by assisting Laurinburg.”

Area rescue workers also jumped in to help folks in need. Fourteen members of the Fire Department’s Swiftwater Emergency Response Team arrived Friday in New Bern, which has been devastated with flooding, said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's chief communications officer.

Using three vehicles, two motorized boats, one raft and various other equipment, the two Swiftwater crews rescued more than 200 people in a span of 48 hours.

They are awaiting their next mission and will continue to work in the New Bern and Jones County areas until they are reassigned by the state Emergency Management Agency.

Swiftwater team member Fire Capt. Jamey Cooke is also a member of the N.C. Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team. He reported to Raleigh where he and the team boarded a helicopter and flew Sunday in the Pender County and Kinston areas.

Fire Capt. John Miller serves with the Hazardous Materials Regional Response Teams for North Carolina based in Williamston. He is conducting spill assessments with the team in the southeastern part of the state, said Fire Chief Mike Varnell.

“We, as a municipal fire department in North Carolina, are part of a statewide mutual aid agreement meaning that we will send personnel and equipment anywhere in the state to assist," Varnell said. "We have been the recipient of this help from other agencies many times, and it feels good to be able to reciprocate and help others. Our personnel are very highly trained, and we have state-of-the-art equipment to provide a very high level of rescue operations.”

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