GREENSBORO — A slow-moving storm dumped two months’ worth of rain here Wednesday night, leading to flooded streets and neighborhoods that left motorists and homeowners in need of rescue.
Forecasters blamed the deluge on thunderstorms that formed on the back end of the storm that popped up over the city around 6 o’clock. That essentially kept the rain over the area for the next four hours, allowing water to collect faster than the ground or drainage systems could absorb it.
“We had a good setup that allowed the storm to basically move very slowly,” said Brandon Locklear, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
With the flooding came multiple forced evacuations, water rescues and road closures.
Greensboro firefighters responded to 65 more calls than they do on an average day, with most of them coming in between 8 and 10 p.m., Assistant Chief Dwayne Church said.
Church said the fire department conducted 42 water rescues and emergency evacuations and 19 water-related calls. The majority of the water rescues occurred in the Latham Park and Westover Terrace areas.
He said people were sitting on their front porches with water rising into their houses.
Firefighters had to use boats to rescue residents. At one intersection, water rose so high it was up to the rescuers’ chests. The flooding was so bad at Station 1 on North Church Street that firefighters couldn’t turn to right as they left the station’s driveway to respond to calls.
Greensboro officials did not open an emergency shelter. Church said most evacuated residents stayed with neighbors on higher ground or with relatives.
Samantha Harrington said she watched as firefighters waded through waist-deep water to check on people in the Latham Park neighborhood.
“It was just crazy,” Harrington said. “I wouldn’t want to live on Latham.”
She said her house on Grayland Street is on a hill so the water flowed away from her, but she watched neighbors deal with water rising into their houses and vehicles.
“Everybody on Latham Road that didn’t move their cars got flooded,” she said.
Police put up signs blocking traffic from Wendover Avenue, but Harrington said officers weren’t helping direct residents out of the neighborhood.
“People were driving around in circles trying to figure out how to get out,” she said.
She watched one woman in a Fiat turn onto a flooded road. She apparently didn’t see the water, and as soon as her front tires hit the water, her car was dragged into the flood, Harrington said. The doors began to open and water started pouring into the car. The woman had to climb out of her sunroof to safety, Harrington said.
Greensboro police spokesman Ronald Glenn said the department tries to educate people about not driving into floodwaters.
“They don’t know how deep the water is, and it can quickly become a worse situation,” he said. “It doesn’t take much water to move a car.”
During Wednesday’s flooding, Glenn said, officers spent most of their time erecting signs warning people not to enter flooded areas and directing traffic.
Flooding at North Buffalo Creek reached a new high with Wednesday’s storm.
Locklear said the weather service’s gauges showed the water in North Buffalo Creek at Church Street rose from 2 feet to nearly 19 feet, which surpassed the creek’s previous high of 16 feet.
On Westover Terrace, the creek’s water level was under 1 foot before the storm and rose to 14 feet before the gauge there was submerged and stopped working.
Locklear said a hydrologist went to the creek Thursday to find the high water mark from the storm. They also expect to move the gauge.
Weather service officials want to use the hydrologist’s data to create new information for residents that explains at what point streets are at threat of flooding as North Buffalo Creek rises.
Locklear warned more rain is on the way.
Meteorologists are tracking storms to the west that will move through North Carolina over the next four to five days.
“We’re going to be in a very wet pattern,” Locklear said. “The good news is people can turn their sprinkler systems off and save on their water bills.”
After Wednesday’s downpour, the area is now very susceptible to the problems that come with wet soil — downed trees, power outages and flooding.
GREENSBORO — Standing in front of a big green food truck, Sadonna Cooper locked eyes on a young, tentative-looking child.
“What you want, doll?” Cooper asked.
“Um, cheeseburger,” the girl in the yellow “Rugrats” leotard and pink shorts replied.
She was among the hundreds of children this week who got a free meal at Guilford County Schools’ new food truck, dubbed “Frankie.”
This is Frankie’s first summer bringing meals to children in need in the community.
The school system purchased Frankie to help with its efforts to get meals to children and teenagers over the summer, said Wanda Barber, the school system’s summer nutrition coordinator. The school system has been taking food into various neighborhoods with vans since 2015, but this new truck helps out because it has refrigeration and warming devices.
Frankie was named by a school system dietitian in honor of a family member who believed strongly in serving children, Barber said.
School officials also came up with another use for Frankie during the school year — helping serve meals at the school system’s Middle Colleges. The schools, which are on college campuses, don’t have the usual cafeterias needed to serve school lunches. Frankie has been helping out with those since January and will continue once school resumes again later this month.
Frankie is visiting Smith Homes and Claremont Courts in Greensboro weekdays this summer through Aug. 16.
Frankie is at Smith Homes from 11:45 a.m. until 12:10 p.m. and at Claremont Courts from 12:35 p.m. until 1:10 p.m. It serves food to about 170 children a day.
On Tuesday, Mindy Young, the cafeteria manager, said she pulled up just a little late after a couple of children in the neighborhood flagged her down to get meals because they didn’t have any. It’s moments like that, or another time, seeing a young boy licking every speck from the inside of the container that held his beans, that suggest to Young and Cooper that some children might not get lunch without their help.
Cooper served as order taker Tuesday, stand in front of Frankie with her clipboard, calling up orders to Young and another staff member in the truck. Most of those orders were, “cheeseburger, chocolate” for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milk, although peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and non-flavored milk were also options.
Each child also got an apple, a plastic cup of broccoli and a box of vegetable juice.
It’s all free for anyone under 18, as well as to older students who participate in school programs and are mentally or physically disabled.
The federal government reimburses schools and other community organizations that provide the food over the summer, in typically lower-income areas, while schools are not in session. Meals are served at schools, community centers, camps and mobile feeding sites. Without transportation, many children that could benefit simply don’t make it to the existing feeding sites, school nutrition staff said.
Meals are supposed to go to children who are physically present — but sometimes the staff finds it hard to say no.
On Tuesday, Young relented after an involved discussion, and gave lunches to two people to take to their children on the condition they bring the children along next time. But with the next couple of people who said the same she was firmer, explaining the rule and insisting the children must be present. At least one person said he would go get his child and come back.
“You’ve got a fine line sometimes,” she said.
A couple of the women who brought children to the truck spoke in favor of the program.
“It’s a blessing that they can do things like this,” said Pam Lane, who accompanied a young boy to get his meal.
As Cooper hands the food over to the children, she says such things as “There you go, baby — you have a good day.”
“I love it; I love the kids,” Cooper said.
“I love being busy and I like to see those smiles on the faces.”
Your say: Residents can comment on Dan River restoration efforts at two meetings next week. Page A4
GREENSBORO — As those who gathered Thursday spoke about possible new U.S. restrictions on the number of refugees and asylum seekers, Cheryl Hairston recited the words from the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Her speech came at the end of a rally of refugee and faith leaders, civil rights groups and business people demanding an end to what they see as an assault by the Trump administration on protections for refugees and asylum seekers.
Considered the most recognizable welcome for immigrants, the statue’s writing begins with the phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and ends with “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Hairston, the leader of the nonprofit Women the World Over, told about 40 people gathered for a press conference at the Center City Park pavilion that to her the lamp is lifted to symbolize those fleeing the darkness of their situations. The golden door recognizes their arrival.
“No matter how we have gotten here we join ourselves together to say this,” Hairston said. “Any administration that stands behind the golden door and seeks to close it will be met on the other side of that door by those of us who will push — and push and press and push and never stop pushing — until we know for certain that that golden door will remain open.”
Thunderous applause followed.
The coalition is urging the public to contact members of Congress and other legislative leaders and ask for their help.
Adamou Mohamed of the resettlement group Church World Service railed against proposals barring virtually all refugees from seeking asylum at the country’s southern border and dropping the number of refugees resettled in the 2020 fiscal year to zero.
“All during the worst refugee crisis in history, with more than 25 million refugees worldwide in need of safety — closing the door on families already waiting years to reunite and abandoning the world’s most vulnerable people,” Mohamed said.
The Rev. Julie Peeples, after reciting a litany of verses from the Bible that call for welcoming the stranger, focused her words on Christian lawmakers.
“Stand up for the faith you say you practice,” Peeples said, as those behind her hoisted signs calling for “Refuge not Rejection” and “Save Refugee Resettlement.”
Several former refugees spoke of leaving behind war and other atrocities. Of opportunities here. Of loving their new country.
“I feel so safe being here,” said Anusia Uwineza, who was resettled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
She and another more recent refugee, Jean-Claude Shamamba, both said family members remain in the camps.
“We are still hoping,” Shamamba, here less than two months, said through an interpreter.
City Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter is the wife and the great-granddaughter of refugees.
“Had my great-grandfather not been given asylum at the age of 12, I would not be here,” she said.
There are 40,000 people who are in various stages of being resettled here and waiting, said Megan Shepard, site director for Church World Service Greensboro.
The people in the program became refugees while escaping violence or extreme poverty in their native countries and have signed up for United Nations programs that move them to safety.
When the United States accepts refugees, contracts are signed with resettlement agencies like Church World Service and the North Carolina African Services Coalition to find them housing and to provide a support system as they work to become more independent. These agencies use the money to develop their budgets for the year. Their whole operation relies on how many people they get from year to year, which is based on the number a president’s office approves.
Delays, even when they are short, also provide a major hindrance for refugees.
All of the background checks, including health paperwork, must be valid at the same time, and that’s a very tight window. And if one expires, they may have to start over.
“These are human lives,” Shepard said, “not just numbers.”
Since the administration’s proposals came to light, local organizations, ranging from the resettlement agencies that help with applying for Social Security cards to those like the education and advocacy FaithAction International House, have been under tremendous pressure. Some refugees already here are worried about family members who are awaiting entry into the country.
Under federal statutes, there can be a ceiling of 50,000 refugees — or a number determined by the president.
It was 85,000 under President George W. Bush.
President Barack Obama raised it to 110,000.
Early in his administration, Trump put immigration officials on notice that he would not go above 50,000. It was about half of that last fiscal year.
The coalition, which passed out information on reaching lawmakers, is asking the community to especially contact U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who is on the Judiciary Committee that a president must consult with before deciding on a figure.