Fayetteville, N.C. — Soldiers from Fort Bragg, far-flung family members and volunteers from across the state converged on some of Fayetteville's storm-damaged neighborhoods Wednesday.
The disaster zone created by Saturday's storms was slowly becoming a construction zone. The whine of power saws and pop of nail guns rang out across the city as residents began a cleanup and rebuilding effort that could take weeks or months.
Authorities have found 658 homes damaged and 287 homes destroyed in the Fayetteville area. A single shelter remains open at Westover Recreation Center, 267 Bonanza Drive.
Gwen Taylor and her husband, an airman, lost some mementos of their travels around the world, and their home was damaged beyond repair. She said the sight of construction equipment in her Fairfield Farms neighborhood is a good sign things will one day return to normal.
Sylvester Delapaz called on his fellow soldiers for help after he saw the extent of the damage to his home.
"They came out here and cleaned up what it would have taken us months to do," his roommate, Arlene Windemiller, said. "They had it done in two days. It's been astounding."
Delapaz added, "I'll never forget what they've done for me."
For three days after a series of severe storms swept through the state, Fayetteville police had limited access to some of the hardest-hit areas to prevent looting.
They required residents and contractors to register and be identified in order to get into areas along Reilly and Yadkin roads. That limit confused some of those who just wanted to help.
Members of the Nazarene Disaster Response team spent an entire day trying to get a permit to enter the zone with no luck. "The only way we got into this neighborhood was because people at our church live here and they could get us in," said Mark Medly.
The City of Fayetteville reopened access Wednesday to all areas, but the curfew for select subdivisions remained in place. Access will be limited between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. until Monday in the following subdivisions: Lagrange, Summerhill, Cottonade, College Lakes, Stonegate, Fairfield Farms and Summerchase.
Jean Hutchinson's Summerchase home had roof and window damage. She said homes nearby her were leveled.
"It is totally random how it happened," she said.
Abby Ortiz, also of Summerchase, said she watched the storm hit a nearby home.
"It hit that house and it went up and it went down," Ortiz said.
Ortiz said she was shocked to see the people inside the house survived.
"Those people walked right out," she said.
A few houses down was the home Bobby Brooks planned to retire in.
"It feels like a bomb being dropped," Brooks said. "It huffed and puffed and it didn't blow my house down."
However, Brooks said his brick home will have to be bulldozed.
"We will start again," he said.
The city has contracted crews to pick up storm debris for free from all affected areas and has increased the frequency of garbage pickup. The state Department of Transportation is sending trucks along roads in unincorporated areas of Cumberland County to gather storm debris in those areas.
Residents are asked to separate storm debris as follows:
- vegetation – tree branches and leafy matter
- construction – wood, tile, glass and lumber
- soil, mud and sand
- electronics – damaged computers and televisions
- household chemicals – cleaning products and paints
Simon Temple AME Zion Church, at 5760 Yadkin Road, began daily, free lunch service Wednesday for neighbors who are digging out from the storms' damage. A church spokesman said lunch would be served daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. until further notice.
Yadkin Road opened to traffic late Thursday.