Aurora, N.C. — Hurricane Irene flooded Carolina Seafood in Aurora with a 9-foot storm surge last August, closing the family business and leaving 60 people jobless in a county with an unemployment rate over 11.5 percent. No government aid came to help repair and reopen the business.
But that didn't stop the owner of the Beaufort County crab-processing company from picking up the pieces.
"You have somewhat a responsiblity to the community," Carolina Seafood owner Vance Henries. "It's not all about me. It's about other people and doing what's right for them."
On Aug. 27, 2011, Category 1 Irene perched over North Carolina for more than 12 hours, pushing the storm surge farther inland than previous hurricanes. In all, it caused more than $1.2 billion in damage in more than a third of North Carolina's 100 counties.
Carolina Seafood was among the devastated homes and businesses.
"I just went to my knees and cried," Henries remembered seeing the damage for the first time. "Walls were busted in. We had trees, floating trees, that had come in like torpedoes and just took walls out."
A year later, the building has been repaired, and nearly 50 people are back at work for the crab-processing company.
Elsie Cradle said she's grateful to continue picking crabs, work she has done for 62 years.
"It gives us something to do," Cradle said.
Challenges for the business remain. The crab harvest is smaller this year.
But after a tough year, Henries said he's proud to have rebuilt his business without taking a single dime in government aid.
"We take what we can get. I know the good Lord will provide for us," he said. "We'll stay right here as long as we can."