Hurricanes

Fayetteville residents seek help with sinkhole Matthew opened

Posted November 21

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— The floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew are long gone, but the devastation and heartbreak left in the storm's wake remain in many parts of Fayetteville.

Darlene Wolfinger and her neighbors on Ridge Manor Drive in southwest Fayetteville, for example, worry about losing their homes to a sinkhole that opened up after the hurricane.

"We brought dirt in, we keep trying to fill it, but every time it rains, the water comes up and takes it right back out. So, we just keep trying and trying," Wolfinger said Monday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency won't help because her house isn't damaged, she said.

"They said it doesn't fall within FEMA because it's not the house, it's the land," she said.

Neighbor Luciana Yarborough, an Army veteran, said she and her children are in immediate danger because their home sits next to a cliff overlooking Little Rockfish Creek.

"It's only three steps out of the back door," Yarborough said of the sinkhole. "It's a 138-foot drop, and the city says the stormwater has eroded dirt from under the land, and you can't fix this. I can't even sell this home."

Gov. Pat McCrory said he wants local agencies to make quick decision about a long-term recovery plan for the Ridge Manor Drive residents and others having problems after the hurricane. A committee appointed by McCrory to coordinate recovery efforts stopped in Fayetteville on Monday during its tour of hard-hit areas.

McCrory said the top priority is to find people housing, and during the committee hearing, he talked about a Habitat for Humanity community off Old Wilmington Road and low-income housing on Murchison Road. Fayetteville and Cumberland County leaders need to decide where they want to focus efforts to rebuild, especially if there is a desire to rebuild in flood-prone areas.

Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson said the city isn't issuing building permits to homes with 50 percent or more damage.

Another priority for the committee is to get small business back up and running as quickly as possible. The governor cited a business owner who was shut down because a bridge and a road were destroyed by flooding.

"That entrepreneur, that small-business owner, was more worried about his 14 employees than he was himself because he knew he couldn't pay them unless his business opened up," he said. "I'm glad to report, by the way, that road and that bridge is now repaired."

McCrory has asked for $1 billion in federal aid for Hurricane Matthew recovery. In the six weeks since President Barack Obama declared a disaster in North Carolina because of the storm, more than 73,000 people in 45 counties have contacted FEMA for information or assistance. More than $152 million in federal disaster funds have been approved, including more than $76 million in grants that will help homeowners and renters who need a safe place to live.

No one asked any questions of the hurricane recovery committee or illustrated problems for members. Robertson said he hopes that is because Fayetteville is doing a good job of getting information out to the public, but he said that doesn't mean problems don't exist, adding that officials are continuing to identify and fix things as quickly as possible.

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