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FEMA response frustrates Raleigh storm victims

Posted April 26, 2011
Updated April 27, 2011

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— Federal funds may be coming, but the bulk of the state's tornado recovery depends heavily on the work of volunteers, Gov. Beverly Perdue said Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened its ninth field office in North Carolina on Tuesday to process aid applications from people whose homes and businesses were hit by the April 16 tornadoes. Yet, people in some hard-hit neighborhoods said FEMA is providing little assistance.

"I see them every day, and I ask them every day what's their role, and every day they tell me, 'We'll let you know,'" said John Faison, who has been working in the Stony Brook North mobile home park since the day after the tornado hit.

The neighborhood, off Brentwood Road in northeast Raleigh, was devastated by the storm. Four children were killed in one home, and more than 50 residences were either destroyed or so heavily damaged that they are uninhabitable.

"We just came to help, but we stepped up because there was no help," said Faison, who runs a nonprofit that provides assistance to immigrants.

A number of Hispanic families live in Stony Brook North. FEMA officials have said some people who are in the country illegally are reluctant to ask for assistance because of fear of being found out.

"The Salvation Army was here doing a fantastic job, feeding this community and feeding the volunteers. We had an army of volunteers out here, but they pulled out on Saturday," Faison said, noting that he, his wife and a handful of others are now providing support for residents.

FEMA response frustrates Raleigh storm victims FEMA response frustrates Raleigh storm victims

"They don't have water in their homes. They don't have electricity in their homes," he said.

Local churches have adopted 20 of the 60 or so families from the neighborhood who were left with no place to live after the tornado, he said.

Glen Sachtleben, FEMA's deputy coordinating officer for the tornado recovery, said he would look into what has been done at Stony Brook North, but he acknowledged that the recovery is "a community approach."

"The volunteer agencies can lend assistance," Sachtleben said. "No one wants to be left unhelped. We just have to determine who they are and where they are so we can provide that assistance, and that's part of the whole community concept, where the volunteer agencies become involved."

Lucinda Sager said she will have to rely on community volunteers or turn to an organization like Samaritan's Purse, because the government denied her damage claim after the storm knocked down dozens of trees on her property.

Stony Brook North damage Volunteers provide support to devastated neighborhood

"All the trees are up by their roots," Sager said. "(They said) it's like I was a farmer and my crops got ruined, and they don't cover my crops. I'm saying, 'How's my tree like a crop?' Trees are like huge obstacles that have to be removed."

Her homeowners insurance won't cover removing the trees, because she has tenants in the house off Holly Ridge Farm Road in northeast Raleigh.

"I've been on the phone, on the Internet for three days," Sager said. "I have not left my house, trying to figure out what to do. I've gotten, like, zero help from our state and our government."

Perdue said she believes public resources are available for those who ask but that local efforts need to serve as a stopgap until the federal aid begins circulating through the communities affected by the storms.

"If volunteers want to step in and plug that gap, it's marvelous," she said. "I just can't find any reason for anybody anywhere in the state to feel like there is not support and assistance, because I've been out at least five days, and I have not seen such an outpouring of community support."


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  • Mazdaspeed Apr 27, 2011

    Why does everything always turn into a race issue? It's so sickening. And to the people saying if it was all white the help would have begun give me a break. My father worked as a mechanic for 60 hours a week when Fran hit back when I was young. In our "all white neighborhood" I was the ONLY person helping him remove 100 yr old oak trees from on our house....and I was 10 years old. NO ONE helped each other in our neighborhood. So give the race card a rest and just throw it away already, it's getting so old!!!

  • mpheels Apr 27, 2011

    It isn't FEMA's job to clear trees from private property. FEMA is there to help with immediate needs - food, water, and shelter for those left homeless plus repairs to public roads/facilities. They also might provide some financial support in the form of reimbursements, but not likely for income properties. If the trees are blocking a public roadway or otherwise posing an immediate threat to health and safety, then FEMA will pitch in. If it's just aesthetic or inconvenient, well that's just one of the costs of being a landlord.

  • Proud Airman Apr 27, 2011

    Insert sarcasm here: FEMA's response is frustrating storm victims? I can't believe it. This is a real shocker.

  • bmg379 Apr 27, 2011

    We have been so busy working in our back yards since after the tornado hit in new hope ,that some of us had no idea the red cross was driving thru,thanks to the red cross and a boy scout troop we had a few hot meals and drinks.The Vulture tree cos and contractors have been all over the place.one of the top questions in the FEMA questions is are you a legal us citizen.There are no volunteers in our neighborhoods cutting trees or removing debris .

  • pappybigtuna1 Apr 27, 2011

    The government has money for Hattii, Pakistan, Africa, BUT NOT FOR THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES


  • cad Apr 27, 2011

    I pay insurance on my house and contents. Before I owned a home and rented I had rental insurance. Rental insurance is very inexpensive covers contents of the home...about $10 to $15 a month.

    Don't depend on the government to help! Churches and other charity organizations are getting donations to help those that need the help.

  • American56 Apr 27, 2011

    How can Mr. Faison dare say there was NO help in this community. Residents could hardly get in and out of this community because of help all over the place. I have seen enough greed over the past week to last me three lifetimes. Red Cross is still in the area. People who returned to homes with no damage need to go to the grocery store like I did, and stop waiting on a free meal. I would gladly buy a(one) one way ticket back to Mexico for illegals in this community. Adoption will never happen in this household.

  • WritNEWlaws Apr 27, 2011

    My parents home was hit in 1988 by the tornado in Raleigh. FEMA is a joke! Thank God they had homeowners insurance! FEMA is just a name that says they are here to help but they do nothing!

  • OGE Apr 27, 2011

    Love seeing all the people on here just being so hateful. Illegal or not these people lost their homes.

  • hdsoftail Apr 27, 2011

    I have no problem helping people that have bad luck or are down. But I get sick of these people thinking the government owes them something when things are bad. I carry insurance on my house if case of something like this. If you dont that is the chance you take. During fran when a tree fell on mine, I got no government help-didnt expect it. I dont understand anyone getting mad because they didnt get a handout.