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Isabel response continues

For people still rebuilding from last year's Hurricane Isabel, the prospect of another hurricane plowing up the eastern seaboard is a grim one.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | August 30, 2004

"I'm afraid long-term recovery will fall by the wayside because something new comes along."

—Art Jackson, CRWRC

For people still rebuilding from last year's Hurricane Isabel, the prospect of another hurricane plowing up the eastern seaboard is a grim one.

"For some people, that rebuilding is really just getting started," explained Art Jackson of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). Jackson recently visited eastern North Carolina, where CRWRC and other faith-based groups are helping people make a long-term recovery from Isabel.

"We started rebuilding there in January 2004, and we'll be there at least until mid-December," he said.

Groups - such as CRWRC, the Marion Edwards Recovery Center Initiatives (affiliated with the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church), and the United Methodist Committee on Relief - are determined to keep plugging away at long-term recovery from Isabel, no matter what other storms steal the headlines this year.

On September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel slammed into the Outer Banks of North Carolina packing 105-mph winds. More than 53,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia alone.

Official reports state that 50 people died as a result of the storm, with an official damage estimate of $3.37 billion.

Jackson and others are concerned that - with the focus on Hurricane Charley recovery, which indeed involves urgent human needs - those still coming back from Isabel will be forgotten. Add in the fact that headline news is starting to focus on Hurricane Frances, and it's hard for the public to remember last year's storm damage.

"I'm afraid long-term recovery will fall by the wayside because something new comes along," said Jackson.

CRWRC has been working in North Carolina since Hurricane Floyd slammed into that state in 1999, and is now working in partnership with the Marion Edwards Recovery Center Initiatives (MERCI).

In Isabel's wake MERCI has assisted nearly 1,300 families in a variety of ways. Volunteer teams coordinated by MERCI have repaired many residences and have even built homes from the ground up. But homes are still waiting for repairs, and some people are waiting for new homes.

"We are still up to our necks in Hurricane Isabel recovery," wrote Barbara Tripp, MERCI director. "We have 147 homes still in Hyde County to repair/replace and almost that many in Pamlico."

Meanwhile, in eastern Maryland, this summer some 34 families in Anne Arundel County were still living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, waiting for repairs on their homes to be completed.

Hurricane Isabel destroyed more than 120 homes in that county and damaged more than 2,400 homes.

Mennonite Disaster Service, Church of the Brethren Disaster Response, United Methodist Committee on Relief, and several other faith-based disaster response groups were assisting with long-term recovery in Maryland.

But there and in other states, recovery from Isabel was slowed by low insurance payouts throughout affected areas. Complaints prompted the National Flood Insurance Program to review appeals from their clients, and about 1,000 requests were reviewed.

A Maryland-based Isabel relief group, the Maryland Interfaith Recovery Team, is still raising recovery funds for Isabel-affected families, and also serving as a communication network for all the organizations involved with Isabel relief work.

Jackson and others said they were concerned not only about people recovering from Isabel but also about how a new disaster would impact those struggling along with other disasters that have long since left the headlines.

"Take someplace like eastern Kentucky," Jackson added, "that's recovering from floods, I'm afraid they will feel forgotten, even though there is wonderful recovery work happening there," he said.

More than 70 counties in that state became federally declared disaster areas in the wake of this year's repeat spring and summer flooding.

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