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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 26 - July 02, 2019

Hurricane Florence Recovery

0 82969by Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

When Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, it went on a destructive path that put millions of people at risk and caused billions of dollars of damage. The storm's waves battered the coast, as hammering winds and inland flooding caused turmoil in the Carolinas. There were also isolated tornadoes and waterspouts.

The rain and wind from the storm caused power outages and major flooding. North Carolina Transportation had reported that flooding from rivers kept sections of interstates closed for weeks after the storm had past. More than 700 roads were closed, and vehicle travel in many of the state's eastern counties was discouraged. Some semis were swamped.

As Hurricane Florence left a mess, Smith's Towing and Recovery from Jacksonville, owned by Donna Smith and her children Derek and Amanda, went to work. During the storm, their operators were called out to recover five flooded tractors and trailers and around 150 flooded cars and trucks. One of these was a semitrailer hauling three large generators (pictured at the beginning of this article).

They were assisted by Prompt Towing Service of Wilmington, where Dave Saladino is the operations manager for his family's business.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol called for assistance in removing a rolled over tractor-trailer.

"The truck was blown over on September 19, 2018, in Maple Hill, North Carolina, during the beginning stages of Hurricane Florence," Derek said. "Hurricane Florence lasted over 30 hours; by the time we received the phone call to recover the truck, it was covered by the floodwaters."

The trailer was a mobile home for disaster relief teams to rest in during their off time and was on its way to provide comforts for the disaster relief teams. Hurricane-force winds blew it over on the way to the job site. The driver escaped safely before the floodwaters rose.

At the peak of the flooding, the tractor and trailer were sitting in approximately 10' of water and could not be accessed by anything other than a boat. Smith's Towing and Recovery assessed the situation daily, waiting for the waters to recede prior to sending any wreckers out there.

Once the water had receded enough, Smith's dispatched operator Dan Chilson in their 1990 Peterbilt/Century 5030 30-ton, operator Gary Dixon in their 1984 GMC General with a homemade wrecker unit and Derek Smith with his 1977 GMC General/Holmes 750. Prompt Towing Service's sent out Saladino in his 1992 Peterbilt/Century 5030 30-ton.

The trailer had approximately 4' of water in it when the recovery team arrived on scene. It was determined safest to pull the tractor and trailer to the shoulder of the road to drain prior to uprighting and towing.

Smith, Chilson, Dylan Greene, Derrick Siangco-Ehrnsberger and James Hockaday rigged the submerged unit for recovery.

"It took all four heavies, with wheels in the air, to pull the truck out of the flooded area to the shoulder of the road before it could be uprighted," Derek said.

Using both Smith's and Prompt's 5030 units, they executed a single-lane upright on the tractor and trailer.

Once it was wheels down and back on solid roadway, Derek hooked it up and towed it to Smith's storage lot in Jacksonville with his 1990 Peterbilt/Century 5030.

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at ; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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