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Union County Feels The Devastation Of Florence

Sarah Delia / WFAE
NC 218 is closed until further notice.

As the wind and rain from Florence subsides, the damage to communities impacted by its path is still becoming apparent. Union County residents felt the devastation, from flooded roads and stranded vehicles to closed schools. And now, from two fatalities. One of the storm’s causalities was a one-year-old boy. 

Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey provides updates in the aftermath of Florence.

As of Monday afternoon some are still without power in Union County and numerous roads are closed either due to flooding or downed trees. Schools won’t resume a normal schedule until Thursday. On Sunday, during the worst of the storm, county officials implemented a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew.

There have been two storm-related deaths. One was Clayborn Lee Wright, 88, who was found outside of a vehicle on Landsford Road. The other was 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch.

Kaiden and his mother Dazia Lee, who is from Charlotte, were traveling to Wadesboro to stay with relatives. Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said in a press conference that Lee drove past road barricades on NC 218, which had standing water.

"This mamma has suffered tragically," Cathey said. "She lost a child. That’s all you can say. But let me say this: These were dangerous times. This driving through water where the roads are closed are dangerous for anybody."

Law enforcement officials led a group of reporters to the location where Lee’s car is still wedged between trees. The road was remarkably dry for the 14 inches of rain some of Union County saw. Even still, you can still see the storm damage, there’s a large chunk of cement missing from the road. Sheriff Cathey pointed out Lee’s car stuck in the woods of Richardson Creek. He said she started driving straight down NC 218, but then:

"She went off into 10, 15 feet of water — so much so that she floated across to those woods. I'm going to say [she floated] 100 yards. And then when she got out, [but] she couldn’t get her feet on the ground and she couldn’t swim. So you can see how devastating this is," Cathey said. 

Officials say Lee and her baby were able to get out of the car, but were separated. Rescuers were able to get to Lee. Kaiden’s body was later found by his mother’s car.

The curfew in Union County has been lifted, Sheriff Cathey said there’s still no timeline as to when NC 218 will be reopened.

Sarah Delia covers criminal justice and the arts for WFAE. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.