Hurricanes

Two months after Hurricane Florence, Pender residents wait in tents, campers, treehouse

Posted November 16, 2018 5:28 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2018 6:05 p.m. EST

— In Pender County, at least 4,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Florence two months ago, and that devastation was largely the result of flooding.

There are still communities that remain without water or power, and the homes are unlivable.

In one Pender County neighborhood visited by WRAL News during the height of the storm, there was 9 feet of water in the area. Most of the residents left, but accommodations were so scarce one man even decided to say in his childhood treehouse to watch his family's property.

He and his family have no idea if they will be able to return to their home since most homes in the Whitestocking neighborhood where he lives were under water.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has allocated $20.4 million in funding to Brunswick County. Of that, $6.5 million in individual assistance has gone to 1,700 families to help them repair their homes, replace what they lost and pay for temporary housing.

But there are still piles of debris, tarps on roofs and children and pets with no homes to return to months after Hurricane Florence roared through the area.

The historic Sand Hill AME church in Burgaw flooded.

"It's really heartbreaking," said the Rev. Sandra David. "But you know what, it's going to be taken care of."

The area had not seen major flooding since Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

"This is Hurricane Floyd times three," David said.

She is trying to help her congregation and the community cope with the storm's devastation.

"You cannot believe how much I have cried, because it is pretty overwhelming," David said.

With no power, running water or housing, people in the area are making due with tents, campers and the man who continues to live in a treehouse on his property.

"We had nine feet of water in our house," said Marshakeishi Brown, who lives in the area.

Brown grew up in the house that was virtually destroyed by Florence's floodwaters. "The last 20 years of memories are gone."

She lived here with her mother until the storm.

"It just makes me so said," she said. "Everything is just empty."

All of Brown's relatives also lost their homes, including her grandfather, Johnny Brown.

"We lost everything," he says.

Brown has lived here for 42 years. Now, like the rest of his family, he is staying in a hotel 30 miles away.

"If you go through it, you understand it," he said. "if you don't go through it, you'll never understand it."

As bad as the situation is, the Brown family says they still have faith.

And David suggests the community won't give up.

"We're coming back," David said. "We're coming back strong."

For many residents, their housing assistance has been depleted, and FEMA has not brought trailers into the neighborhood. The residents are hoping someone -- anyone -- will look through the window in the community and realize the houses are not currently livable and may never be livable again.

FEMA funding as of Nov. 7, 2018:

Pender County – FEMA funding provided: $52 million

FEMA has provided $14.9 million in grants to 2,472 Pender County households to help them rent a place to live temporarily, make basic home repairs to help make their home habitable and replace personal property.

By law, FEMA assistance is for needs not covered by insurance.

FEMA has paid $37.1 million in flood insurance claims to policyholders in Pender County, where 1,226 claims have been filed. In addition, FEMA has paid for 74 Pender County families to stay in hotels temporarily under the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, because their primary residence was uninhabitable.

For survivors with uninhabitable homes who cannot find a viable rental property, FEMA has licensed 18 Pender County families into direct temporary housing units.

New Hanover County – FEMA Funding Provided: $29.3 million

FEMA has provided $10.2 million in grants to 4,017 New Hanover County households to help them rent a place to live temporarily, make basic home repairs to help make their home habitable, and replace personal property.

FEMA has paid $19.1 million in flood insurance claims to policyholders in New Hanover County, where 1,478 claims have been filed. In addition, FEMA has paid for 172 New Hanover County families to stay in hotels temporarily.

Brunswick County – FEMA Funding Provided: $20.4 million

FEMA has provided $6.5 million in grants to 1,727 Brunswick County households to help them rent a place to live temporarily, make basic home repairs to help make their home habitable, and replace personal property.

FEMA has paid $13.9 million in flood insurance claims to policyholders in Brunswick County, where 1,021 claims have been filed. In addition, FEMA has paid for 51 Brunswick County families to stay in hotels temporarily.