Jobless search for work in wake of Hurricane Irene
Posted February 27, 2012
Bayboro, N.C. — Hurricane Irene blew away more than homes in Beaufort County six months ago. Jobs were also casualties in an area already hard-hit by a struggling economy.
The Henries family's Carolina Seafood in Aurora has been closed since Irene pushed water on shore with so much force Aug. 27, 2011 that it destroyed the crabhouse.
The family has been repairing the business without insurance or federal disaster money.
"It's been hard," Vance Henries said. "All this we've had to do, we've had to come up with the money ourselves."
Sixty employees have also been out of work since the Carolina Seafood closed.
Janet Diffenderfer said she's drained her savings while searching for new work and waiting for the crabhouse to reopen.
"I probably got $200, and I'm hoping my taxes come this week," she said.
Diffenderfer is not alone among those thrown out of work by Hurricane Irene.
Regularly employed workers who lost work due to the storm are part of Beaufort County's 10.9 percent jobless rate, above the state average of 9.9 percent. About 170 commercial fishermen and farmers in Beaufort County also applied for disaster unemployment as a direct result of Irene.
Cash, calendars and federal deadlines are also worrying county residents whose homes were damaged by the hurricane.
Darnell Smith's home of 30 years flooded, forcing her to move into a temporary trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
By April 1, FEMA wants residents to return those trailers, unless they can prove they need more time.
"I got into this at the end of November, first of December, and they want me out by April? I can't even build a storage shed in that time, let alone a house," Smith said.
Smith said she's also fighting for her flood insurance company to pay up.
"I feel like, as they say, we're being treated like the red-headed stepchild. They don't give a rip about what's going on down here," she said.
Given time, Smith said, she and other Beaufort County residents will rebuild.
That resilience is built into their characters "because we're southerners," she said. "After a while, you forget about it. It's what people have done in the past, and what they will always do."
Henries said he keeps working because he wants to be a part of rebuilding, not just a business, but a community.
"As long as I can get up in the morning and stand up and be blessed by the good Lord, I'm going to keep going, best we can," he said.