Conditions varied across areas affected by Hurricane Matthew as crews began cleaning up Sunday afternoon.
Some residents witnessed more damage than others as they ventured out of their homes.
Although she was never without power at her Catherine Lake Road home, Valerie McCue said the storm still surprised her.
Being a category 1 hurricane, she wasn’t expecting much.
Until right before the storm hit forecasters had called for Hurricane Matthew to turn before the worst of it hit Onslow County, and the storm had decreased significantly from originally being a category 5 storm.
“It kind of surprised me when the gusts started coming through,” McCue said.
McCue was at work at the Richlands Food Lion Sunday morning and said the grocery store only lost power once through the storm when a car crash cut it off for about 45 minutes or so.
Wal-Mart just down the street wasn’t as lucky. An associate stood outside Sunday morning informing drivers the store did not have power restored yet and was closed. The store had not opened by late afternoon.
It was much the same in Beulaville as it was at Wal-Mart. The town had gone dark during the storm and only the main stoplight was working Sunday morning. While the line of cars wrapped around the building at Taco Bell, Hardee’s and McDonalds in Richlands, the Beulaville parking lots stood empty.
Toward Albert J. Ellis Airport, Jennifer Toro said the storm was better than she’d expected.
“We have to repair two boards in our fence and my garden was trashed, but we did pretty good,” she said, adding that her family had been prepared for the hurricane.
The Toro family rode out the storm in their home and lost power overnight, but the power had returned by 12:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
However, the family’s fridge died during the storm and needed to be replaced Sunday.
A friend of Toro’s in Richlands, hadn’t been so lucky, she said. The friend’s roof was leaking and her fence was “completely ruined.”
As the Swansboro area began to return to normal after the rain cleared and the sun began to shine, residents expressed thanks and relief that the damage sustained appears minimal.
Mike Botinovch rode out the storm with his daughter at his home off Hammock Beach Road. Other than some tree limbs and debris around the area, he said he didn’t have any damage.
“We did very well. We were very fortunate,” Botinovch said, as he took a bicycle ride downtown Sunday morning.
Botinovch said he enjoys spending as much time in Swansboro as he can, but he’s from Pittsburg and not accustomed to tropical storms or hurricanes.
He doesn’t care to see another storm like Matthew.
“I don’t want to see anything higher (than a category 1),” he said.
Hubert resident Evelyn Ponsler stopped by the Swansboro waterfront to help friends cleanup at their business, Candy Edventure.
She only had some fallen tree limbs and said she feels very fortunate considering the businesses here that were impacted and especially considering residents in areas experiencing massive flooding.
“We’re so blessed,” Ponsler said, noting the media coverage she’s seen of people climbing on rooftops to be rescued from floodwaters.
Debbie Harnatkiewicz, owner of Bake Bottle & Brew along the Swansboro waterfont, agreed. She and her husband stayed at their business until 6:30 p.m. Saturday after watching the waters rise around them that day.
The water receded but it was still pretty high when they left and Harnatkiewicz said she was anxious about what they would find when they returned in the morning.
“We were worried about the next high tide,” she said.
Fortunately the water did not enter the building that houses their business and Quilt Cottage.
“We could have gotten much worse,” Harnatkiewicz said while stopping in at neighboring Candy Edventure, which did see some flooding.
Ed Radley, who opened the business with his wife Jessica in April, said they got about six inches of water in the back of the building and about three inches toward the front.
Staff and friends were at work Sunday mopping floors and drying out the building but Radley said they had spent the days before the storm lifting items off the floor and raising up merchandise that might be prone to flooding.
“That really helped to minimize any damage,” Radley said.
He said they didn’t lose any merchandise and plan to be back open Monday after the cleanup.
“I guess this is our initiation,” Radley said.
Shane Smiling of Surf City just experienced his first hurricane and was relieved it hadn’t been worse.
“Being new to the area, the experience was something I’ve never gone through before,” he said. “The winds were pretty high and I actually thought we would have to evacuate.”
After the area settled down, he went out to explore the damage in his neighborhood and found multiple fences down and “tree branches everywhere.” He also noticed trash about the area.
“I was not scared, but I was cautious,” Smiling said. “It was definitely an experience, but I’m glad nobody got hurt.”
Sneads Ferry residents were stranded after Hurricane Matthew washed out a major creek control pipe system under Dolph Everett Road in Holly Ridge near Sneads Ferry.
“I just can’t believe this,” Dolph Everett Road resident Maggie Mija said. “We are just worried about if someone needs emergency services. They have no way of getting the help they need.”
Overnight the extreme flood waters that hit the area overwhelmed the huge pipe underground, forcing water around the pipe.
“I was amazed at how fast it washed away once it started,” Ted Mija said. “When it started to wash away it really took off. It didn’t take long at all.”
The influx of water pushed the dirt supporting the entirety of the road, as well as the pipe, down the creek. It eventually caused the entire road to collapse, leaving behind a hole and cutting off the neighborhood from resources.
“We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best,” Maggie said. “We were relieved it wasn’t any worse.”
NCDOT was on scene around 10 a.m. Sunday after receiving the report of stranded residents.
A crew was on scene to clean out the hole left by the wash out, replace the pipe, back fill and have the road back open by dark Sunday, NCDOT Communications Officer Brian Rick said.