Local News

FEMA gives Irene victims more time to vacate trailers

Posted March 30, 2012 5:38 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2012 6:38 p.m. EDT

— Seven months after Hurricane Irene hit the North Carolina coast, more than 100 families are still living in emergency trailers provided by the government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had set a Sunday deadline for the families to vacate trailers in flood hazard areas, but about 80 families have received extensions.

Elsie Hooper, the last person on Hatteras Island still in a FEMA trailer, got a 30-day extension Thursday night, but she has to ask the government within two weeks if she needs to stay beyond that.

Her new home won't be finished for at least two months.

"Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a box," Hooper, 78, said recently of living in the trailer.

Her former home dated to the mid-18th century, and parts were held together by wooden pegs. The house stood strong against every storm for a century and a half, but it was no match for Irene's flood waters last August.

"She was terrible," Hooper said. "September of '44, that was bad, and the tide was bad, but nothing like Irene, nothing like Irene."

Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are building her new home, as well as others along the coast to get people back into permanent housing after the storm.

"Where they're falling short, we're trying to be there for them," volunteer Billy Layton said. "There's so many people that need help. They just don't have any other means. It's either us help them or do without."

Hooper said she knew from the beginning that the trailer was a temporary shelter, and she said she's forever thankful for the help she received.

"If it hadn't been for FEMA, I would have had to live with someone else," she said. "I just thank God there was somebody that would lend a helping hand to me."

Layton responds simply by saying, "The Lord called us out here to do this."