As the nation learned after Hurricane Katrina, natural disaster relief is often an ongoing process for the areas affected. Clean-up efforts continue well after the breaking news headlines. When Hurricane Matthew struck the coast of North Carolina in October 2016, many eastern North Carolina communities were devastated. That’s when the Clayton, NC-based Caterpillar Backhoe Loader product team and local Cat Dealership, Gregory Poole Equipment Company, stepped into action to help these affected areas.
Three communities, in particular, were struck hard by Hurricane Matthew, and left in dire need for relief assistance. The Caterpillar team knew that if these areas gained access to proper equipment, it would drastically speed up clean-up efforts. Therefore, in December 2016, the team made arrangements to donate a Cat® 420F Backhoe Loader to the City of Lumberton and a Cat 414E Industrial Loader to surrounding Robeson County. The team then donated a third machine to the Town of Princeville in January 2017—another Cat 414E.
“When Hurricane Matthew hit so close to home, it became a personal matter to our North Carolina-based Caterpillar team,” says Dustin Adams, backhoe loader product specialist at Caterpillar. “We wanted to help the impacted communities. And knew we could by donating machines that would be able to assist in a variety of ways throughout the long process of restoring order after a hurricane.”
North Carolina Communities Making Significant Progress
Fast forward a year, as the Caterpillar team was excited to receive updates from community representatives on their progress since the hurricane and machine donations. These areas have not only put a substantial dent in clean-up efforts, but have also been able to use the machines to assist in several other municipal projects.
“The Cat Backhoe Loader has been a lifeline to the City of Lumberton,” says Bruce Davis, Mayor of Lumberton. “We put at least eight hours on it every single day. And that’s the thing with Cat equipment, these machines just run and run and run.”
The City of Lumberton Public Works Department has used the Cat 420F to clear out large amounts of debris left behind after the storm, proving especially useful in removing bulky matter and heavy tree stumps from damaged areas. In addition to disaster relief, the 420F has been put to work on an exciting new expansion project at the city’s livestock arena—building 100 new stalls for horse shows that come to town. The public works department has also used it for several trenching, dozing and demolition projects.
Meanwhile, in Princeville, their Cat 414E continues to be instrumental in post-hurricane recovery. Like Lumberton, the town has used the machine to help clear out debris, improve road conditions and level ground. The town also maintains a close relationship with their Gregory Poole dealer, Rob Plumb, and recently worked with him to acquire a Cat Box Blade attachment in preparation for the next phase of restoration projects.
“We have received feedback from local officials stating that the 414E has made the Town of Princeville self-sufficient,” explains Adams. “Not only is it improving their clean-up efforts, it is proving to surrounding municipalities and counties that small towns can persevere and be self-reliant.”
Robeson County provided a similar update, reporting the area has made tremendous progress since Hurricane Matthew hit last fall. County manager, Ricky Harris, attributed a lot of the credit to their Cat 414E. He explained it has been essential for not only clearing debris, but also repairing a myriad of water lines that were damaged during the storm.
While these communities continue to work toward full restoration, they remain confident in their ability to do so with the help of their dedicated residents, donated machines, as well as relationships with Caterpillar and their Cat dealers.