Hurricanes

Seven Springs remains a ghost town months after Matthew's devastation

Posted April 6

— In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Seven Springs in Wayne County is a ghost town.

"I do believe we are going to see about half our population lost," said Mayor Stephen Potter.

Seven Springs is one of six communities the state has given priority to in the recovery effort. Forty-seven of 49 homes were seriously damaged, most beyond repair, and only seven families have returned. Some of the families are in temporary housing while they rebuild, including Potter.

"It's a 29-foot camper with me and my mother, so it is an ordeal," Potter said.

Ivey Outlaw and his wife say they will rebuild on the outskirts of town. Their home, which was in the family for generations, was destroyed.

"We lived there ever since we've been married back in 1976, it's been our home," Outlaw said. "We rebuilt it after Floyd and we thought that was where we were going to be until they carted us up to the graveyard...it's not going to be that way."

Chip Crumpler, the county's flood plan administrator, says as of last week's deadline, they received 300 applications for the federal buyout program at a cost of nearly $32 million, but it could be a long time before homeowners see the money.

"It could take two or three years," he said.

But Arthur Chambers said he is not waiting around for federal grant money. He decided to rebuild on his own.

"If you don't have the money in place to rebuild, you can't rebuild," he said. "So, before I started rebuilding, I had to make sure I had all the money in place to rebuild."

Chambers added an 8-foot foundation to help prevent his home from future flooding.

As part of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the county hopes to help 23 homeowners elevate their houses above flood level at a cost of nearly $4 million.

"If you choose an area inside of a flood hazard area, you elevate your structure," Crumpler said.

Whether a person chooses to rebuild or move on, it is an extremely personal decision for each homeowner.

"I raised all my children here," Chambers said.

On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper asked Congress for federal assistance to help families, businesses and communities working to rebuild from Matthew.

“Matthew was so destructive that its name has been retired, but North Carolina will never forget how this hurricane turned life upside down for so many people in our state,” said Gov. Cooper. “We’re working closely with our local, state and federal partners to seek the resources needed to help storm survivors rebuild homes and help businesses and communities recover.”

Hurricane Matthew dumped eight to 12 inches of rain across much of eastern and central North Carolina, causing an estimated $4.8 billion in damage. The deadly storm displaced thousands of families and damaged more than 98,000 homes and over 19,000 businesses.

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