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Storm mars NC recovery

BY SUSAN KIM | NORTH CAROLINA | October 18, 1999

NORTH CAROLINA (Oct. 18, 1999) -- Hurricane Irene headed out to sea

--but not without dumping more rain on already-saturated North

Carolina. Areas flooded by the massive Hurricane Floyd were hit

again, and new flooding was reported in communities that had escaped

most of Floyd's force.

Most of the 400 people who stayed in shelters Saturday night returned

home today. Many left homeless by Floyd were evacuated yet again from

temporary trailers. As rivers continue to crest, North Carolinians

remain sharply vulnerable to flooding.

Hurricane Irene not only caused great anxiety among storm-weary

efforts but also put recovery efforts on hold. "Yesterday, volunteer

teams that were supposed to help clean up (from Floyd) stopped," said

Kim Brown, who volunteers at the Kinston Area Recovery Effort (KARE)

relief center.

The relief center opened Monday morning as usual, even though some

streets in Kinston were covered with water. "My neighborhood streets

were flooded, and so were people's yards, and I live in the higher

part of Kinston," she said.

At the KARE facility, flood survivors are connected to volunteer

teams who help them clean up their homes and yards. Brown said

volunteer work would resume today. "It (Hurricane Irene) could have

been worse," she said. "For example, there was not much wind at all.

If the wind had come, trees would have been toppling all over the

place because the ground is so saturated."

Gale-force winds were reported in the southeastern coastal area of

the state on Sunday. At least on tornado, a spin-off from the

hurricane, was reported as well. One person was killed in a traffic

accident on a flooded section of Highway 264 near Washington.

"We got a ton of rain, but not what Florida received," she added.

Parts of North Carolina received more than six inches of rain, but

Florida was inundated with a foot or more, although residential

damages are nowhere near as severe as in North Carolina.

Even though the rain has stopped, some North Carolinians are still

waiting for rivers to crest, a haunting replay of Hurricane Floyd's

sequence of destruction. For communities along the Cape Fear River,

which were not hard hit by Floyd, Hurricane Irene could have brought

new misery.

"It could be worst for those along the Cape Fear River," said Dennis

Levin, president of North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response

(NCIDR), a state-level interfaith group that promotes the development

of local interfaith committees.

"I'm checking in with interfaith groups there," he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also assessing

damages, said Susan Jensen, FEMA volunteer agency liaison.

The latest rainfall has slowed the drying-out process for homes that

have been cleaned out and gutted, added the Rev. Jim Hayes, pastor at

the Pollocksville United Methodist Church. "A certain number of days

are required to absorb moisture out of these houses," he said. "So

that process definitely got stalled."

"But wind damage was nil here," he said. "And that could have been

devastating." In Pollocksville, where up to 75 homes were ruined by

Hurricane Floyd, two homes still haven't been cleaned out.

A help center remains open at the Pollocksville Town Hall, where

survivors can obtain food, cleaning supplies, and bedding.

In addition to physical damage caused by the latest rainfall,

Hurricane Irene brought emotional hardship to already-weary flood

survivors, reported response leaders and local pastors.

Most residents are thankful Hurricane Irene didn't bring more rain --

but at this point, any rain is difficult to take, said the Rev. Bob

Kretzu, pastor at the Brogden United Methodist Church, situated

between the towns of Dudley and Goldsboro, both virtually submerged

by Hurricane Floyd.

Survivors from Hurricane Floyd are "in limbo," he said. "The biggest

problem right now is a bottleneck with FEMA and SBA (Small Business

Administration) assessments."

There is a sharp need for financial assistance, but distributing

financial aid or rebuilding homes too early can actually decrease a

survivor's amount of FEMA assistance.

"Most people are in grief or shock," said Kretzu. "They are having a

difficult time emotionally. Work teams want to come in and get a lot

done but homeowners don't always know how to utilize them."

The missing piece, he added, is people who know how to coordinate

work teams. "One person needs to act as the liaison," he said. "One

man who was flooded out happened to be a contractor who was familiar

with the process. So he could keep volunteer teams busy."

The speed at which FEMA adjustments are being made is inconsistent

among survivors, he added. "I know a father and son live just across

a driveway from each other, and there was water standing in the

driveway. One FEMA assessor wouldn't come through the water, but

another FEMA representative walked through someone else's yard,

jumped the fence, and made the assessment," said Kretzu.

In fact, the assessor who waited until the property was accessible

followed FEMA policy, said Carl Dickinson, FEMA housing officer.

"Accessibility is an issue. But if it's just a driveway, then an

inspector would probably go ahead and do the inspection."

Judging whether a house is accessible is up to the individual

inspector, he added, so some subjectivity will occur. "Applicants

needs to be aware that, if their property was deemed inaccessible,

they need to call and let us know when it becomes accessible," he

said.

Posted October 18, 1999


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