Local News

More than two years after Hurricane Matthew, FEMA money helps Wayne County family buy new home

Posted April 25, 2019 10:22 p.m. EDT

— Hurricane Florence took over the headlines in 2018, leaving many victims of Hurricane Matthew feeling sidelined as they waited for money from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program to help them get back to normal.

When Hurricane Matthew flooded the Lancasters’ home in 2016, they had no idea where they would go. Thanks to the kindness of family, friends and strangers, they made it through the past two-and-a-half years, while waiting for the money to rebuild their lives.

The Lancasters used buckets to bail water out of their home as fast as they could during Hurricane Matthew. Eventually, they grabbed what they could and left.

“It was almost like we were trying to stop the Titanic from sinking,” Joey Lancaster said.

An army of people helped the family clean their house and salvage what they could before moving into a rental home.

“This other family that opened up their house and let a family of five come in with a bulldog, you know what I mean, they didn’t know us,” Amy Lancaster said.

Wayne County received $8.8 million in its hazard mitigation program to buy out 84 families who lost their homes after Hurricane Matthew. This money came from an $88.1 million in federal and state funds awarded to local governments in North Carolina to buy out, elevate or reconstruct flooded homes.

“It’s amazing the difference the families that we closed on, finally able to recover, their whole mental attitude, their whole approach. It’s a different look on life,” said hazard mitigation project manager David Harris.

Initially, the Lancasters were not on the buyout list, but with some persistence they got their names added.

“So many people said, ‘Just let your house go,” but we couldn’t do that,” Amy Lancaster said.

“We worked too hard for too long to just let it go,” Joey Lancaster added.

Last week, the Lancasters finally got their buyout. This week, they purchased the home they had been renting.

“We’re a little numb,” Joey Lancaster added. “I looked back and thought, ‘Wow, it’s actually ours now.’”

So far, six families have received buyouts and dozens of others are in line. The goal is for the county to pay all 84 families by the end of the year.

The reason emergency managers in Wayne County are anxious to finish distributing the Matthew buyout money by the end of the year is that they need to deal with the next hurricane recovery program, which will address damage caused by Hurricane Florence.