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Jamestown nurse aids in hurricane recovery

Flooding in the aftermath of Huriricane Florence caused the evacuation of large parts of North Carolina. Nikki Maulding, a Jamestown nurse, was part of a response team that aided residents there. Photo submitted by Nikki Maulding

Nikki Maulding, a Jamestown nurse and part of an emergency response team sent by the North Dakota Department of Health to North Carolina in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, said her time there was hectic and fulfilling.

"It was organized chaos," she said. "There were curfews on the roads. We went into shelters that were manned by nurses that hadn't had a break in eight days."

Maulding was initially assigned to work at the Wallace-Rose High School in Wallace, N.C.

The shelter there provided housing for people who had survived the winds of Hurricane Florence and the flood waters that followed. Low lying areas were under orders for a mandatory evacuation with a curfew in place for the entire county.

"The displaced population have so many needs," Maulding said. "You can see the physical needs, you can't see the emotional needs."

Maulding described working with people who had sometimes been without medication for issues like diabetes or heart disease for up to two weeks.

"A lot of people came into the shelters with med lists that were two- or three-pages long," she said.

While the hurricane winds had ended, and some of the downed trees were removed, flooding was still an issue.

Many residents were dealing with rising and contaminated flood waters at their homes. Several poultry and hog feeding operations exist in the area, and in at least some cases, livestock perished in the flood waters and farm waste containment ponds were inundated. In addition, community sewage lagoons were also flooded.

"If your home was flooded to any extent, it was contaminated," Maulding said. "The waters definitely smelled of sewers. Anything touched by that water wouldn't be good."

Officials in North Carolina were attempting to consolidate the people into larger shelters, although many residents fought the move. Local residents often refused to be transported to the large shelter the state was operating at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Everything might have been destroyed," Maulding said, referring to the people who stayed, "but still it was their home."

Maulding said people capable of caring for their pets were allowed to keep them at the shelters, although pets of people with serious health problems were moved to animal shelters. There were also security officials and animal control officers stationed at some of the shelters.

The nurses worked to meet all the needs of the people.

"Some days there was 20 hours of work," Maulding said. "You worked when you were needed and slept when you could."

Maulding said her experience there, which was cut short by a knee injury, touched her.

"I heard so many stories of heroism," she said. "I've learned so much in the seven or eight days I was there. It changes you."

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