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Dorian's floodwaters trap people in attics on Outer Banks; many say it's worst they've ever seen

ATLANTIC BEACH A weakened Hurricane Dorian flooded houses on the Outer Banks on Friday with a fury that took even storm-hardened residents by surprise, forcing people to climb into their attics. Hundreds were feared trapped by high water, and neighbors used boats to rescue one another.

Medics and other rescuers rushed to Ocracoke Island — accessible only by boat or air — to reach people who made the mistake of defying mandatory evacuation orders for the barrier islands.

“We are flooding like crazy,” Ocracoke Island bookshop owner Leslie Lanier texted. “I have been here 32 years and not seen this.”

Its winds down to 90 mph, Dorian howled over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the brute that wreaked havoc on the Bahamas at the start of the week. Just when it looked as if its run up the Southeast coast was coming to a relatively quiet end, the Category 1 hurricane sent seawater surging over neighborhoods, flooding the first floors of many houses, even ones on stilts.

“There is significant concern about hundreds of people trapped on Ocracoke Island,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Over and over, longtime residents said that they had never seen flooding so bad and that places in their houses that had never flooded before were inundated.

“We were all on social media laughing about how we’d done well and there was really no flooding at all, just rain, typical rain,” said Steve Harris, who has lived on Ocracoke Island for most of the last 19 years. And then, “the wall of water just came rushing through the island.”

“It just started looking like a bathtub, very quickly,” said Harris, who was safe in his third-floor condo. “We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes.”

The U.S. Coast Guard used helicopters to landing local law enforcement officers on the island and airlift out the sick, the elderly or others in distress, Hyde County authorities said. National Guard helicopters also flew supplies and a rescue team in. Residents were told to get to the highest point in their houses in the meantime.

“Several people were rescued from their upper floors or attics by boat by good Samaritans,” Ocracoke Island restaurant owner Jason Wells texted.

In Buxton on Hatteras Island, close to where Dorian blew ashore, Radio Hatteras volunteer Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy said people were calling in to report that “houses are shaking like crazy” and that “it’s never been like this before.”

Cooper said that as of Friday evening officials were not aware of any serious injuries on the Outer Banks from the storm. One 79-year-old man was airlifted from Ocracoke Island because of a pre-existing condition, authorities said. People in need of temporary housing were being taken to a shelter on the mainland, Cooper said.

“The hurricane has left behind destruction where storm surge inundated Ocracoke Island,” he said. “Currently the island has no electricity, and many homes and buildings are still underwater.”

Around midmorning Friday, the eye of the storm came ashore at Cape Hatteras, Dorian’s first landfall in the continental U.S. after a week and a half in which it spread fear up and down the Southeast coast and kept people guessing as to where it would go.

By late afternoon, Dorian had peeled off the coastline and was finally heading out to sea. It is expected to remain a hurricane as it sweeps up the Eastern Seaboard through today, veering far enough offshore that its hurricane-force winds are unlikely to pose any threat to land in the U.S.

Power outages had dropped by about one-third, to around 213,000 in the Carolinas and Virginia.

At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on Dorian. All were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.

As Dorian closed in, more than a quarter-million residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate the Outer Banks, but many just tied down their boats, removed objects from their yards that could blow away, and hunkered down.

Dorian slammed the Bahamas at the start of the week with 185 mph winds, killing at least 30 people and obliterating countless houses. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled off roofs and flipped recreational vehicles.

Still, the damage was far less than feared in many parts of the Carolinas, including historic Charleston, S.C., which is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, and Wilmington, North Carolina’s biggest coastal city.

Joseph Pawlick went out Friday morning to rake leaves, twigs and other debris from the sidewalk outside his Wilmington home.

“I slept like a baby last night. This, thankfully, was not bad,” he said.

N.C. Folk Festival fills downtown Greensboro tents, stages and streets

GREENSBORO — The enticing beat of drums welcomed crowds downtown Friday night to the opening of the N.C. Folk Festival.

Around center city, four stages came to life with entertainment that launched the free, three-day outdoor festival of multicultural music, dance, crafts and food. A fifth, the Family Stage near the Greensboro History Museum, will open at noon today.

N.C. A&T’s popular Cold Steel Drumline started the action on the Lee Wrangler Stage on North Elm Street. Phil Wiggins Blues House Party took the Lawn Stage on Commerce Place.

A community drum circle performed at the TowneBank Stage at LeBauer Park.

The N.C. Brazilian Arts Project of dancers and drummers led a parade of spectators from Center City Park to the CityStage at East Market and Davie streets.

“Welcome to the city of Greensboro,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan greeted the crowd there. “We are so happy that you are here for the second annual North Carolina Folk Festival.... We know that this is going to be a great three days.”

The N.C. Folk Festival spun out of the National Folk Festival, which held a three-year residency in the city from 2015 to 2017 and drew more than 400,000 spectators to downtown.

More than 150,000 people attended the inaugural 2018 N.C. festival, according to ArtsGreensboro, which produces it with the city government.

Soon after Vaughan spoke, sacred steel band The Allen Boys took the stage, followed by renowned soul musician and headliner Booker T. Jones.

Dressed in coat, tie and hat, he waved to an applauding crowd that overflowed the Lincoln Financial parking lot, before sitting at the organ and playing with his band.

Jones rose to fame as the frontman for Booker T. and the M.G.’s. One of his most famous songs, “Green Onions,” was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The multicultural celebration of the country’s roots and heritage will bring 45 performers, 55 artisans and 26 food vendors to center city.

The threat of rain and wind from Hurricane Dorian had cleared out Friday morning, leaving a weekend forecast of sunny skies and high temperatures in the 80s. A light shower might develop later Sunday night.

Wilson and Morgan Okello had come from Wilmington to escape the hurricane and visit family here.

“We heard about the folk festival and wanted to come check it out,” said Wilson Okello, who teaches higher education at UNC-Wilmington.

They joined the enthusiastic crowd that took cellphone videos, cheered and applauded for A&T’s drumline.

A Bucket Brigade of volunteers circulated, seeking a suggested donation of $10 per person per day to help keep the festival free.

Those without cash can donate through the festival’s mobile app, through Cash App, or with a device called a DipJar that some Bucket Brigade members will carry.

At other stages, audiences heard country Telecaster master Redd Volkaert; jazz and funk from Mwenso and the Shakes; Dominican Bachata from Andre Veloz; Indian and Pakistani music from Kiran Ahluwalia; Cajun, Creole, blues and swamp pop from Steve Riley and the Racines; and African and Cuban music from Ricardo Lemvo and the band Makina Loca.

They gave spectators a sample of the entertainment that will follow today and on Sunday. Many acts will perform more than once.

Near the N.C. Maker’s Marketplace of craft booths along North Elm Street, international students from High Point University used chalk to draw their countries’ flags — “to put an international stamp on the festival,” said Femke Van Gurp of the Netherlands.

This marked the fourth folk festival for Brent and Stephanie Foley Davis. They brought daughter Elizabeth, 3.

“We always try to come when there’s something that involves music,” said Stephanie Foley Davis, an opera singer.

They had seen A&T’s drumline and were headed to see Phil Wiggins. They wanted to hear Tuba Skinny play early New Orleans jazz and blues.

They like Dixieland jazz and blues — “Dixieland especially, since we don’t get that every day here in Greensboro,” said Brent Davis, band director at Mendenhall Middle School.

They will have plenty of opportunity to hear a variety of music.

The festival will reopen at 11:30 a.m. today.

Look for acts such as Tuba Skinny, Irish band Lúnasa, Hawaiian guitarist Ledward Kaapana, storyteller Kim Weitkamp and string band The New Smokey Valley Boys.

Wu Opera Troupe of Yiwu City will come the longest distance — from China.

The Family Stage will feature puppeteer Jeghetto, string band The New Smokey Valley Boys, funk-pop band Reliably Bad and folk singer-storyteller Jon Sundell.

Find dance workshops in the Van Dyke Performance Space in the Greensboro Cultural Center, 200 N. Davie St.

Several festival performers will participate in guitar and fiddle workshops.

This afternoon and Sunday afternoon, the new Folk Fest Music Spots will bring 11 local bands to perform in eight downtown businesses.

Laura Way, president and chief executive officer of ArtsGreensboro, was pleased as she surveyed Friday’s crowd.

“The reward for the work and the time and the resources it takes is that there is not one unhappy face,” she said.

Final exams and tests set to change in 2020-21 for Guilford middle and high school students

GREENSBORO — Guilford County high school students will see a change to final exams next school year due to a new state law signed this week.

And some district middle school students may see less testing under the same measure, the “Testing Reduction Act of 2019,” signed Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

One of the biggest changes in the law is it eliminates the N.C. Final Exams starting with the 2020-21 school year.

The exams are statewide standardized tests that are given in many academic subjects not part of the state’s main end-of-course or end-of-grade exams.

The N.C. Final Exams date back four years, and used to include some elementary courses, according to Guilford County Schools Interim Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley. The state used them to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers whose students weren’t taking EOCs or EOGs.

The state plans to come up with some other way of evaluating how those teachers are doing.

High school students next year who would have had to take an N.C. Final Exam will instead take a local final exam. It will still count for 20% of their grade, Oakley said.

Some middle school students have also had to take N.C. Final Exams, although they do not count for 20% of their grade. They won’t take those tests next year, or any special “local final exam.” Instead, they’ll be graded on other normal tests during the year as usual. It may wind up being less testing for some middle school students due to the change, Oakley said.

She welcomes the change because she thinks teachers will be able to get more out of using local tests. With state tests, Oakley said, teachers can’t just look to see how each student did on each question and get quick feedback that helps the teachers improve.

She said departments at the various high schools will set their new exams, drawing on curriculum materials the district provides. Students, she said, may notice in 2020-21 that their final exams are more similar to the regular tests teachers gave them throughout the year.

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