SEPTEMBER 10, 1996
BURGAW -- Though living in one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Fran, correctional officers have kept Pender Correctional Institution operating safely.
"Some of our staff live at the beach and haven't been able to return home and may not for weeks,"said Pender superintendent Jack Turlington. "Others are having to drive hours out of their way around downed trees and power lines just to get to work."
Assistant Superintendent Jim Byrum got to enter his house at North Topsail Beach for the first time yesterday.
"I got my clothes and my photo albums," Byrum said. "My house is on the sound side of the island where damage was less severe. When we drove onto the island, I looked for landmarks to determine where I was and many of the landmarks weren't there."
With all the damage suffered at home, correction staff maintained safe operation of the prisons. Staff from a neighboring prison worked shifts at the prison today allowing staff the chance to tend to damages at home.
"We got the worst side of the storm, the northeast quadrant," Turlington said. "At about 12:30, it was flat out blowing."
Blowing debris busted out several windows, but the prison suffered no damage and no one was hurt.
"Its amazing the storm caused so little damage to the prison when you look at the light poles," Assistant Superintendent Randy Futrell said. "There's three inches of open space around each pole where the hurricane winds blew it back and forth."
At nearby Columbus Correctional Institution at Brunswick, the storm blew down trees and power lines but did not damage the prison.
"Trees and limbs were all over the road after the hurricane. About every road was blocked. The intersection of highways 131 and 701 looked like a war zone," said Columbus Superintendent Joel Hunt. "At the prison, we had some gutters loosened and tree limbs to pick up off the yard, but no damage."
The prison's inmate road squads are working with Department of Transportation crews in Columbus and Brunswick counties. As DOT crews remove downed trees and cut them up, the inmate crews clear the timber and debris.
At Central Prison in Raleigh, the problems were minimal. Emergency generators supplied power when the electricity went out for several hours.
"We had a lot of employees with trees down on their homes and vehicles and yet they came into work," said Central Prison Warden James French. "They put this place above their families. It takes a special person to do that."
"You can tell these folks care about their job," French said. "They pulled together and put the interest of the state first. Now things are getting back to normal and we"re working to give employees the chance to take care of their property."
Cleaning up after Hurricane Fran