ENC Features

Stories broadcast on PRE which are of interest to Eastern North Carolina

Significant flooding in the Tar and Neuse Rivers as well as Contentnea Creek near Hookerton and Northeast Cape Fear River near Chinquapin will occur over the next several days and last well into next week.   The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for those areas.

We travel to hard-hit Bertie County where residents and business owners are sifting through their belongings ruined by floodwaters.  We speak with people who are now homeless, and relief workers on the ground assisting residents on the lengthy road to recovery.   

Voice of the Pirates, Jeff Charles, talks ECU Football

Sep 26, 2016
ECU Athletics Communications

East Carolina University is an anomaly among most North Carolina universities. While much of the state looks forward to winter – to the start of basketball season – Pirates fans long for autumn and the start of football season. ECU Football is in its 85th season and 2016 may go down as one of the more notable campaigns in program history. It's Coach Scotty Montgomery first year and it follows the controversial sacking of his predecessor, Ruffin McNeill.

J. McCord / UNC-CSI

Fishermen and divers can access a new, online interactive guide to learn more about the 64 artificial reefs in North Carolina.  These underwater sites enhance fisheries that the coastal economy and culture rely on.  Now, local scientists are involved in ongoing research to determine the best way to maximize fish production at artificial reefs. 


North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently announced that the State is seeking federal approval to designate a section of U.S. 264 as a future interstate.  The 72-mile segment of highway will extend from the U.S. 264/Highway 64 near Zebulon near Wake County, and run through Nash, Wilson, Greene and Pitt counties all the way to Greenville.   The application for interstate designation has been sent to the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Office. A decision could be made as early as November.

Politics in Polite (or not-so-polite) Company

Sep 19, 2016
The Hill / Getty Images

As Election Day approaches - political rhetoric is getting tenser. Even relatively innocuous stories from the campaign trail seem to ignite heated arguments.

At times, those strong disagreements play out at public forums, social gatherings, or family get togethers.

Chris Thomas has this.  

So, you’re at the office or you’re around the dinner table – and then it happens: the conversation turns to politics.

“There has been many a family gathering where the subject was dropped…”

Wolf Haven International

The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service has decided to continue their nearly 30 year conservation effort of the endangered red wolf in northeastern North Carolina.  But conservation groups aren’t happy with the announcement.  

University of California - Riverside

Today on the Down East Journal, we explore how prepared local healthcare providers are when it comes to the uncertainty surrounding Zika infection and microcephaly in infants.

According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, southeastern North Carolina has the highest birthrate in the state.  This fact may play in favor of early detection and early intervention should Zika become a real threat here in eastern North Carolina.

NC Sea Turtle Project

The sea turtle nesting season is winding down and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is reporting it's a record year.  So far, there have been 1,636 nests counted along 330 miles of ocean facing sandy beaches in our state.  That number is up from last year's count of 1,300 nests and it's a significant jump from 2014 where 565 nests were reported. 

ENC Workers Facing Small Wages, Little Organization

Sep 12, 2016
Rocky Mount Telegram

Last Monday – Labor Day – marked the unofficial end of the summer season and a final chance to partake in its pleasures.

But as reports of stagnant wages, underemployment, and rollbacks on workplace discrimination protections persist, reminders of Labor Day’s original purpose have begun resurfacing. 

Chris Thomas has this.

This is what organized labor sounds like in eastern North Carolina. It’s a Lodge Meeting for the AFL-CIO’s District 110, headquartered in Havelock.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program is responsible for the reintroduction of the species declared biologically extinct in the 1980s.  Now, after decades of work, they may dismantle the program all together. Local conservation groups recently held rallies to show their support, while some private landowners in the red wolf recovery area want to see the program end. 

We love our furry companions, for better or worse.  But when it comes to changing your dog’s behavior, training tends to focus on making them respond to human commands in order to make them act more human.  But a local non-profit has made it their mission to move people to a new way of thinking about pet training and behavior. 


More and more communities in eastern North Carolina are striving to be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.  Building sidewalks or bike paths connects people with commercial areas, promotes healthy lifestyles and increases aesthetic appeal. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is paving the way to help municipalities develop plans that encourage safe walking and biking.  Mac McKee speaks with Planning program manager with NCDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Division John Vine-Hodge about the grant initiative.  

The Black Sheep Online

There was a spike in counseling service appointments last academic year and a major cause of concern is a lack of coping skills regarding the uncertainty of life like failure and adjusting to new environments. It mirrors a nationwide trend among college-aged students, and as Chris Thomas reports it’s only the tip of the iceberg facing millennials.

North Carolina Coastal Federation

Living shorelines are effective at slowing erosion, providing habitat and improving water quality.  Now, the North Carolina Coastal Federation wants to install more than 2,000 liner feet of living shoreline in eastern North Carolina's sounds, bays, rivers, and waterways. 

John F. Blair Publisher

INTRO – A Durham couple has a unique problem in their publishing efforts… and if they choose to commiserate about their problem with a malted beverage in hand, that’s o-k. It’s just more research for their next published effort which, given exponential growth in their chosen topical field, could be sooner rather than later. George Olsen has more.

Erik Lars Myers and Sarah H. Ficke have what would typically be a devastating problem for authors… they no sooner publish a book and its out-of-date.

The summer is a perfect time for outdoor recreation.  Whether you enjoy fishing, hiking, camping or gardening in your backyard, be on the lookout for snakes.  Public Radio East's Mac McKee speaks with Dr. Sean Bush, a venom expert at ECU's Brody School of Medicine.  Dr. Bush as appeared on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS, and was featured on the show "Venom ER."

City of Jacksonville Media Services - Kevin Reopelle

Living shorelines, wetland restoration, oyster reefs.  Green infrastructure is an effective and proven method of increasing coastal resilience, stabilizing the shoreline and cleaning the waters in estuaries and the sounds of eastern North Carolina.  But can the approach be used farther upstream in brackish water, in more urban settings to restore polluted waterways?  The City of Jacksonville and local scientists are trying to answer that question.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Update (8-11-16): A major, state media outlet is reporting a federal court has struck down North Carolina's state House and Senate maps. According to WRAL-TV of Raleigh, the court ruled the maps were unconstitutional on the basis of race, but the 2016 election will go ahead as planned with the maps as they are.

UPDATE: Rocky Mount has changed their mind about removing Pokemon Go locations at parks and city properties.  After a review of parks and facilities, the city decided not to remove Pokemon Go sites, unless there’s a specific hazard at the park. 

If you recognize that theme, you may be among the 75 million people playing Pokemon Go.  The wildly popular app has young and old alike wandering around, phone in hand, searching for Pikachu, Charmander, and Squirtle.  In an effort to cover this new craze, I set off to find poke players and had no trouble at all.

Rip currents have been making headlines lately with deaths along North Carolina's coast attributed to these swift, powerful channels of water.  To help keep you and your family safe this summer, Public Radio East’s Mac McKee speaks with Atlantic Beach Fire Chief Adam Snyder about how to break the grip of the rip.

Fisher House Welcomes Families in Transition

Jul 29, 2016

Since it opened its doors in April, Ft. Bragg’s newest house has welcomed more than 67 families. It’s a special residence, part of the Fisher House Foundation’s program, and the second such residence the Fayetteville Army base has hosted in 23 years.  It’s one of two program homes in North Carolina – the other is aboard Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville.   Chris Thomas has this.

How do you deal with a life permanently altered – by a disease, a traumatic injury, or the sudden, premature, and violent death of a loved one?

Often, it’s going about your daily routine.

“My mom had, you know, her own little space…so she could get up in the morning and get her own little cup of coffee and sit outside and do her devotional and all that.”

Lori Sutherland of Fayetteville, mother of Michael Rodriguez – killed in action in 2007. Ms. Sutherland said he’d long dreamt of a soldier’s life. When it came to an end over the battlefields in Iraq, her family – primarily from Galveston, TX – was referred to the Fisher House at Ft. Bragg.

Nearly a decade later, Ms. Sutherland is now manager of the base’s new Fisher House, the latest of 70. The former house – the house where her family stayed in the days following Specialist Rodriguez’s death – is set to be demolished.

“When they come to tear the house down, I’m (going to) get a window to keep – just a little piece of the house. I’m (going to) have the guys that are tearing down the house to save me a window.”

The Fisher House Foundation is a philanthropic organization started in 1990 by a Brooklyn born builder Zachary Fisher.

Fisher Houses are residences built on military installations – usually near a hospital – and donated to the U.S. Government. They are temporary living spaces for visiting families of service people wounded, sick, or killed in action.

Its founding, according to Josie Callahan of the Camp Lejeune Fisher House, can be traced back to a conversation he had with Pauline Trost, wife of, then, Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral Carlisle Trost.

“During the course of that friendship, Mrs. Trost brought to Zach’s attention that there were these family members who were coming for their service member who was receiving treatment at the hospital and had no place to stay. They were staying their cars. And he very simply said that he could build something for them because that was his line of work and that’s what he could do.  

Ms. Callahan has been manager of the Camp Lejeune Fisher House since it opened in 2010. She says she still remembers the first family that stayed there – a Marine Corps Master Sergeant, his wife, and their two children.

“And it was so neat to see – and really, to be honest, it’s so neat today to see – the families come in and, you know, and their face lights up, they’re looking around, they can’t believe that this gorgeous home is going to be their coming to stay.”

Since its founding 6 years ago, the Camp Lejeune Fisher House has hosted 1,800 individuals for 5,600 nights. The house has 11 suites.

“We have a family room, a dining room, kitchen, laundry room, business center, quiet room, and unisex bathroom that our families share together – those are our common spaces. And then each family is given their own room and their own bathroom.  

Among the family members welcomed by the new house in Fayetteville Trica Leake, mother of Spc. Drew Ruiz, who was diagnosed with cancer this past winter.

“When we first got there, it was like coming home. I’d never felt so welcome in any place in my entire life. You’re immediately brought in, treated like family.”

She stayed from January to June and made the transition from the old house to the new. The old house, according to Ms. Sutherland, was roughly half the size of the current one.  

“There was a couple of times I had to get help as far as being able to provide food for myself and that was immediately provided because there’s so many volunteers that would come through there and donations of food and pretty much everything that you would need to run a home.”

Along with helping out around the house, Ms. Leake said she spent her free time exploring Fayetteville and contributing to the local economy.

That’s an under-examined aspect of a Fisher House’s presence in a community, Ms. Callahan said.

“So they’re really no different than the folks that stay in a hotels, except they’re not paying the occupancy tax affiliated with the hotels. But, they’re still needing to grocery shop, purchase clothing.”

Though families usually arrive at the Fisher House under unpleasant circumstances, Ms. Callahan says some families will turn up while on vacation for a friendly visit.

“One of our families had come – the last time they’d come to us, their son had been hurt in Afghanistan – and so, fast forward 2-and-a-half years later, they were sitting the rocking chair on the porch when I came into work one morning and…I said ‘hey guys, what are you doing here?’ and they said ‘he deployed today. He went back over and we just wanted to see our friends that helped make that happen.”

Some have been hesitant to donate to veteran-focused charities after multiple, high profile cases of alleged fraud were uncovered this year.

But the Fisher House Foundation’s record is, more or less, squeaky clean. They received the highest marks available from two, major, charity watch dogs – Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy’s “Charity Watch” database.

“You know, we can’t speak for any other organization, we don’t work for them, so they’re responsible to their donors, to their boards, to their folks for what they do and we’re responsible to ours, but we’ve kept that transparency so when people say to us ‘what about these other things happening?’ we can’t speak to that, but let us show you what we’ve done, what we’ve raised, what we’ve done with it, how we’re doing it and what our future plans our and let you make that decision, and by having all of that information available, and by time and time again doing exactly what we said we were going to do, we’ve been able to keep that public trust which is so important to us.”

Like most charities, Fisher House Foundation takes donations – including hotel points, frequent flyer miles, and unwanted vehicles. But Lori Sutherland said the things individual houses need most aren’t that different from what you may get at the store.

 “We need things like cleaning products. We need food, you know, groceries. Gift cards are always welcomed. That way we can run to the story and get what we need.”

Items like new toys for the houses’ younger visitors are also welcomed.

For more information, go to publicradioeast.org.

I’m Chris Thomas.   

Wind Energy's Future in NC up in the Air

Jul 26, 2016
Avangrid Renewables

Last weekend, the skyline in Pasquotank County changed dramatically when builders hoisted a nearly 500 foot wind turbine in a corn field.  More than 100 just like it, part of the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East project, will make up the first wind energy farm in the state.

ENC Residents fought, died for Union in Civil War

Jul 18, 2016
North Carolina Union Volunteers

Thousands of men from North Carolina enlisted to fight in the Civil War, many them for the Confederacy, but some – including 1,300, white, eastern North Carolinians – went against their state’s government and fought for the Union Army. They were later joined by nearly 1,100 black men from region.  

Those decisions pit brother against brother and for some, it resulted in paying the ultimate price – on the battle field and the gallows.

Local towns along the coast are stepping up efforts to make beaches safer and more accessible.  Atlantic Beach is rolling out plastic walkways each morning to provide a stable surface for wheelchairs.  Emerald Isle is focusing on reducing the number of drownings with the installation of over 100 flotation devices along the surf.

Melissa McGaw, NCWRC

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is calling on hunters to help out with a statewide deer hunting survey to help improve deer management.  The current study expounds on another conducted in 2006 with 10,000 hunters.  Officials hope to reach over 220,000 this time.

ECU Celebrates 20th Guitar Festival

Jul 11, 2016
Joe Pellegrino / The Daily Reflector

ECU's Summer Guitar Festival was held July 6th through the 9th in Greenville with four days of concerts and workshops.  The event attracts students and experts from across the nation.   Chris Thomas has more on the festival's growth over the past 20 years and the vision for the future.

This is how things started Wednesday morning – the first day of this year’s ECU Guitar Festival. Back in 1996 just 12 people checked in for the first one. This year, 53 people registered for classes and gradually wandered into the lobby of the A.J. Fletcher School of Music.

Zika Taskforce Surveys State Mosquito Population

Jul 5, 2016
University of Florida

In response to the Zika outbreak, and any threat it may pose to North Carolinians, a statewide co-op of researchers, pest control specialists, and doctors are studying local mosquito populations – specifically, carriers of the headline grabbing virus.

The study is in its early stages, but as Chris Thomas reports, participants – and the state as a whole – may have gone into it with a hand tied behind their back.  

Duke Marine Lab UAS

A team of researchers are conducting their annual sea turtle survey at the coast this summer.  But this year, they have a new tool to give them a bird's eye view.  Drones equipped with cameras fly over the water and capture images of sea turtles from above.

Beyond Binary: Living a Secular Life in the Bible Belt

Jun 27, 2016
Getty/Dimitri Otis

Now we continue our series “Beyond Binary” which explores the changing demographics of our area.

Eastern North Carolina is among the key notches on the “Bible Belt.” Houses of worship can be found on the most remote country roads and it isn’t uncommon to see their lots filled to the brim at least twice-a-week.

But as Chris Thomas reports, secularism’s reemergence in America hasn’t exempted eastern North Carolina.