Today, we can happily report that — following the trials and tribulations of last month’s bullseye hurricane confrontation on our Wilmington, N.C. campus — we here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) are back in action. In fact, just a week after our return from evacuating, everything was cleaned up and looking like Hurricane Florence had never visited our 17-acre outdoor education campus.
But no matter how experienced you might be at preparing for, evacuating from, and recovering after a natural disaster, you can never fully anticipate what Mother Nature might toss your way as part of her standard repertoire of weather. And while today, with on-campus and field courses back in action, it certainly didn’t look that way on the morning of Friday, Sept. 28, when a thunderstorm completely unrelated to Hurricane Florence rumbled over our property.
That’s when a massive bolt of lightning hit the window of our director of operations’ office, sending a bolt of energy through her keyboard to her fingertips while she was working. A second bolt of lightning hit a tree adjacent to our gear shed, traveled down the tree, through its roots, blowing a hole through our property’s water line and sewer line, and cooking the conduit that houses our property’s power line.
The central panel for our septic system was blown up, the lights to our on-campus classrooms blew out, along with electrical outlets, fuses, and the phone lines, Internet, and all of our exterior light bulbs. Blam!
Fortunately, our operations chief escaped serious injury, and luckily, NCOAE is a valued member of the Wilmington community, where a bunch of compassionate service providers drove over, rolled up their sleeves and got busy on a second natural disaster cleanup.
Here’s is a quick review of our hurricane highlights:
- Due to the impending hurricane, we were evacuated from Sept. 11-19 to an area just outside of Jacksonville, Fla.
- Early on Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence made landfall just a few miles from NCOAE headquarters, south of Wrightsville Beach, and only slightly weakened as it slowly moved inland.
- The storm eventually degenerated to a post-tropical cyclone over West Virginia on Sept. 17, and two days later, the remnants of Florence were absorbed into another frontal storm.
- Our return from Florida was slow going because it seems a lot of folks did like we did — evacuated to the south instead of inland or north for this particular storm.
- The sprawling NCOAE campus sustained only minor destruction, but we had tons of debris from downed and damaged oak trees, yellow pines and cypress trees, so cleanup took from Sept. 23 to 26.
- By Thursday, Sept. 27, everything was shipshape and we were ready for a previously scheduled 19-day Intensive EMT-Basic Training program that was scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.
It was the next day that Mother Nature tossed us the curve ball in the form of a thunderstorm. That’s when our community businesses and partners stopped what they were doing and came to the rescue — despite their ongoing hurricane recovery efforts for themselves and others.
With a new batch of EMT students showing up in just two days, everyone got to work repairing power lines, water lines, the sewer system’s lift stations. Miraculously, the work was done and we were up and running — again — just in time for the EMT students’ Sept. 30 arrival.
So, we’re more than thankful to our Wilmington family and we’re most happy that no one on Team NCOAE or through our extended families was seriously hurt during either of our natural calamities. Being an outdoor adventure and education operation, we are grateful for Mother Nature and all her gifts.
We just wish she’d work a little bit harder on her sporadic temperament.