North Carolina Department of Correction news release

JANUARY 15, 1998

Cleaning up after flooding in Western North Carolina

Work crews totaling more than 50 men from three western North Carolina prisons have been hard at work this week helping Avery and Mitchell county communities that were ravaged by last week’s floods.

"Cove Creek runs through the middle of Bakersville and when the creek flooded it washed out bridges, picking some of the bridges up and turning them around," said Sgt. Dale Stevens who managed prisoner work crews from Caldwell Correctional Center that worked in the Mitchell County community. "There was much more damage than I expected to find. They still have a problem up there."
Prison work crews from Caldwell and Wilkes correctional centers went into public offices where five feet of water had washed through leaving more than 6 six inches of mud. The crews helped to remove the mud and used high pressure water hoses to clean equipment and furniture. They shoveled mud and debris from streets and cleared debris from creek banks.

"We spent the day clearing tires, debris and people’s posessions like bikes, lawnmowers and lawn chairs from the creek," said Correctional Officer Jason Parnell of Wilkes Correctional Center. "We tried to clear the creek so that the water would flow and not cause additional problems."

In Avery County, state forestry and correction staff have led crews from the Young Offenders Forest Conservation Program at Blue Ridge Youth Center to assist homeowners.
County Emergency management staff directed the crews to help build bridges across Roaring Creek to people’s homes.

"We find two large trees to make the stringers that stretch from bank to bank of the creek," said Keith Suttles, a state forestry officer who leads the inmates crews. "Local lumber companies have donated lumber that we use to provide the bridge decking. Most of these bridges are four feet wide. Some have been as long as 40 feet."

One crew from the Blue Ridge unit has been unloading and moving office equipment from a damaged Tennessee school into storage at an Elk Park, NC school.

The inmate work crews expect to return to the communities to provide assistance. Prison managers are working to make the crews available to Emergency Management officials through the weekend to assist in recovery efforts.


Photos courtesy of the
North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety
Division of Emergency Management

Posted on web 1/27/98