Military families come home to Owensboro seeking refuge from Florence

September 14, 2018 | 9:38 am

Updated September 14, 2018 | 1:54 pm

Sumner children watching the hurricane updates from Owensboro. | Photo by Katy Sumner

North and South Carolina have been popular vacation destinations for Owensboro residents for many years. Some have even selected these states as the best place to retire. With Hurricane Florence making landfall, millions of families had to evacuate from all over North and South Carolina, sending many families north to seek refuge.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 10 million residents in North and South Carolina and Virginia are under storm watches or warnings.

Overnight, Florence was downgraded from a Category 2 to a Category 1 and made landfall this morning in Wilmington as expected. While this may seem like promising news for those in the storm’s path, the Carolina coast is still getting battered with 100 MPH winds and up to 40 inches of rain.

What most people may not realize is that North Carolina is home to several military bases, Camp LeJeune Marine Corps base and Cherry Point Naval Air Station being among them. Camp LeJeune is located in Jacksonville, N.C., directly in the storm’s path.

Katy Kirk Sumner and her husband Jacob are 2014 graduates of Daviess County and Apollo High Schools, respectively. Jacob joined the Marine Corps shortly after high school, and the two married in the fall of 2015. The couple has been stationed at Camp LeJeune since late 2016, and have two small children, a daughter age three, and a son who is eight months old.

The family’s home in base housing is approximately 20 minutes from the beach and “loses power twice a month in normal wind.” With recent weather predictions using words like “monster” and “catastrophic,” and all of the surrounding counties calling for mandatory evacuations, the Sumner family decided to evacuate back home to Owensboro.

Monday night they packed their valuables, their two children, two dogs and two cats and left as soon as Jacob finished work on Tuesday and came to stay with Katy’s parents.

“Tuesday, before we were getting ready to leave, everybody was getting nervous,” Katy Sumner said. “Some people in our neighborhood chose to stay behind…As soon as his command gave the OK that we could leave, we were on the highway.”

As of now, Jacob Sumner has to be back on base on Monday, which would require the family to turn around and go back Saturday night. Katy Sumner is thankful that Jacob’s unit is understanding and feels they will make the best call for all families involved.

“His unit says, ‘Your family is most important,’” Katy Sumner said. “Your safety is more important than coming back.”

Similar to first responders, military service is a 24-hour-a-day job. Not all military positions are created equal, and not all members can leave their appointed bases.

Emily Warren Carter is a 2014 Apollo graduate who is stationed with her husband, Brandon, and their 2-year-old daughter at Cherry Point Naval Air Station in New Bern, N.C. Brandon is what is considered essential personnel.

Brandon is with the Marine Corps military police and, as an M.P., is required to stay with military EMTs and firefighters to respond to emergencies and guard the armories on base. The Carters live about nine miles from base in St. James City.

“I didn’t realize how close we were to the river until the hurricane happened,” Emily said.

Thankfully Emily was able to leave Monday night with her toddler and a few valuables. She also brought two other Marine Corps wives, two boys and two puppies, because they had nowhere else to go.

Emily said all three of their husbands were stationed in Okinawa together and went through three tsunamis together, so they didn’t hesitate to tough it out. She also said she has been bombarding her husband with text messages to put items in higher places in hopes they will remain dry and safe throughout the storms.

“The real problems happen when the river crests,” Emily said. “That could happen at the end of next week so there is really no telling how long we’ll be here.”

Right now, the wives and their families are all staying with Emily’s mom and have to take breaks from watching the news and get out of the house.

“With all of our husbands being there, all we have done is panic,” Emily said. “We’re watching live coverage wondering how in the world did this small little town get on national news.”

Meteorologists reported across various national news outlets this morning that there were “desperate conditions in New Bern, N.C.” where “hundreds of people are trapped on roofs and in cars.”

“You should still treat it as Category 4 because it’s still just as large as it was,” Emily said in her disappointment that other families stayed behind. “As much as I hate the reason we’re here, it’s really nice to be home and see my family.”

September 14, 2018 | 9:38 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like