NEW BERN, N.C. — It’s been five years since the devastating Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast.

What You Need To Know

  • It’s been five years since Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina

  • New Bern was one of the cities that got 10 feet of storm surge and flooding

  • The recreation center was destroyed in the storm

  • After years of planning, a new building is finally under construction

New Bern was one of the cities to get hit hard. The aftermath of Florence left people in New Bern shocked when it passed through five years ago. A 10-foot storm surge in many areas along the river caused devastation that the city is still recovering from. Kari Warren was living here when the storm hit.

“It was just you couldn't even believe what you saw,” Warren said. “Just the amount of cleanup that had to take place afterwards. And all of the time and effort and work that staff put into all of these calls. It's not just you clean up and you're done. You clean up and you continue to have to work on this type of work and getting these projects completed so we can gain back what we lost.”

When Hurricane Florence hit New Bern there was flooding across the city. (Spectrum News 1)

Now, as the parks and recreation director, Warren says construction is still in the works. The Stanley White Recreation Center was one place that couldn’t be saved after the storm.

“It was a total loss,” Warren said. “Everything inside the building was demolished.”

Now, the center is finally being rebuilt but not in its original location.

“It's just what we have to do,” Warren said. “And unfortunately, it's not always fast. And there's a lot of steps to go through. And it turns into a marathon versus a sprint.”

The old location was still in a flood zone. By moving it down the street, the city can now use it as a shelter area in future storms. It also allows the city to double the size and add more amenities.

“We were able to take a really bad situation and turn that into something better that's going to last for generations to come,” New Bern Mayor Jeffrey Odham said.

Odham has lived in the area his whole life. Since 2018, New Bern got grant funding to make resiliency plans, joined a flood coalition and learned how to rebuild things more sustainably.

“Every time you go through one of these storms, you learn something,” Odham said. “We're more prepared and ready now for the next disaster that's going to come because obviously it's going to happen. I don't know if it'll be on my watch or tenure or someone else's. But, you know, we've done a lot of things in the background to better prepare our city.”

New Bern broke ground on the new Stanley White Recreation Center in early August. It will include a double gym, walking track, fitness area, classrooms and daily recreation programs. The project is expected to be completed next fall.

This sign shows what the new recreation center will look like. (Spectrum News 1/Jenna Rae Gaertner)