Almost a month after Hurricane Florence hit the coast of the Carolinas, Wilmington, North Carolina, continues to see positive signs of recovery. “We’re back open,” says Kim Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches CVB. While remnants of the Category 1 story’s wrath—which caused major flooding and power outages —remains, Connect spoke with Hufham for a progress report.
How are you and the CVB staff doing following Hurricane Florence?
We’re very, very fortunate. We had a couple of people on staff whose homes were hit a little harder, but everyone is safe. We’re opening more and more each day. Every day we are filled with more hope and positivity that recovery efforts are going very well.
What have the staff and the CVB been doing since the passing of the hurricane?
Of course we have a crisis plan that we have in motion when something like this happens. One of the first things we do is call the town and find what the situation is—whether bridges and streets are closed. One of the biggest things we do immediately following a storm is to reach out to our lodging and figure out their situation. Most of the time when you have a storm of this magnitude, you have your relief workers coming to the area pretty fast once it’s cleared. One of the main things we had going while our offices were closed was checking availability and working with the emergency operation center, making sure they have updates and information.
When do you anticipate things will be back to “normal?”
Over half of our properties are back open. There are more open in Wilmington than in the beach community. Some of the beach properties that are closed are seasonal anyway. We expect the ones open year-round will stay open once they address any issues—repairing roof and leaks—they are working with. We are back [open] as far as restaurants, hotels, retails and motels.
A lot of issues had been leaks; shingles blowing off, etc. It takes time to fix those things. Water has been a big thing more so than the wind.
How was the convention center affected?
They originally hoped it would open on Oct. 1. I talked to Fredia Brady, general manager of Wilmington Convention Center, and the initial assessment was that there was water in the meeting rooms. After they got to the convention center, Fredia said there was some water in the exhibit hall and areas like that. There was no major damage, but you know when water comes in, they have to check behind walls, and it’s taking a little longer than they had planned, but it will be open Oct. 11.
Were there any events scheduled in Wilmington when the hurricane hit and were they rescheduled?
There were a couple events at the convention center like weddings and state association meetings. All the events except one to date have rescheduled. Riverfest, which is a big event for us in October, has been rescheduled for November, and the Seafood Blues and Jazz Festival, which is at Carolina and Kure Beaches, is going to be in April.