Bonnie memories linger in NC


NORTH CAROLINA (Jan. 8, 1999) -- The clean-up from Hurricane Bonnie may be

close to completion, but residents along the Atlantic coast are still

struggling with her legacy.

"We've seen a lot of emotions revolving around Christmas," said Pam

Denning, the assistant director for Catholic Social Ministries. "People

have lost a lot of symbolic things for the holidays. At every stage

they find new things that have been lost."

Hurricane Bonnie lingered along the coast for two days at the end of

August, causing $360 million in damages, according to the federal

Insurance Services Office. Still, care-givers in stricken areas were

dismayed to see Bonnie's fallout minimized by larger tragedies, such as

Hurricanes Fran and Mitch.

"I've found disasters are always compared to the worst thing people

have experienced," Denning said. "I think people saw that (Bonnie) paled

in comparison to Hurricane Fran, and people looked around and said,

'Well it wasn't that bad.' It wasn't as easy to see as Fran, but those

who were affected were hit very hard."

Denning said that she has several cases of families still in need of

homes due to damage from Bonnie, "and one case left over from Fran" to

deal with.

Pastor John Misenheimer, of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in

the Winston/Salem area, said that the clean-up in his

congregation was finished.

"Initially the church helped with money and aid in the form of grants

for people who needed help. We made calls to church members, especially

the older members, to see if they needed anything," he said. "Then we

left it up to people to come forward. Since Bonnie was such a light

storm, compared to Fran, at this point no work is being done."

He noted that last year's active hurricane season has increased

people's awareness of their delicate position on the Atlantic coast.

"After a couple storms, any time there's a hurricane warning you can bet

we pay close attention."

The federal government, stung by record disaster damage figures in

high-risk areas, are also paying close attention. The aftermath of

Bonnie and Fran has seen a policy shift instituted by Federal Emergency

Management Agency director James Lee Witt, who has advocated limiting or

even banning subsidized flood insurance.

FEMA is pursuing denying flood insurance to homeowners who have filed

two or more claims that total more than the value of their home, and who

refuse to elevate their home or accept a buyout.

For residents, just getting their homes cleaned up was enough, and the

only support they needed came from their neighbors. Deacon Lloyd Sykes,

of Brunswick Baptist Church, said that the clean-up effort "went smooth"

because of support from the community.

"I went straight to the church after the storm was over. Most people

who needed help called or came right over," he recalled. "We had it

bad. The power was gone, for some people it was gone for a couple of

days. The storm really tore the town up."

Sykes said people with access to heavy machinery cut up the fallen

trees while others gathered the limbs to be carted away. The ordeal had

casualties : an older parishioner had a heart attack "while taking a

breather" and was rushed to the hospital in Willington, N.C. for open

heart surgery. (He survived and still lives in Brunswick.)

In the end, according to Sykes, "most of the town" is rid of Bonnie's


"Everything went good," he summed up. "We all just got together and


Posted Jan. 8, 1999

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