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Pender Tornado Troubles Continue With Lingering Storm Debris

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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. — It's been nearly five months since the remnants of Hurricane Bonnie spawned a deadly tornado in Pender County.

The twister killed three people and injured dozens, and clean up has been slow in the town of Rocky Point as residents struggle to get financial aid.

The community now faces another challenge -- getting rid of all the storm debris.

For one victim, Clarence Pickett, the storm was especially vicious. The tornado slammed a mobile home into Pickett's house, killing a 9-month-old child. He's been living in an apartment ever since.

"It's been rough on me because (there) ain't nobody giving me no help," Pickett said.

Pickett paid workers to clean most of the debris from his yard and stack it near the road. He expected county or state crews to collect it.

"They told me to put it there and they'd move it in two weeks -- that was five months ago," Pickett said.

Many people in this community are upset because they say no one has removed any debris for months.

John Stringfield says county workers recently came by to see the pile in his back yard.

"They couldn't guarantee me, but they were going to work on it to see if they could get it removed," said John Stringfield, a tornado victim.

Pender County leaders say they're waiting on the state Department of Transportation to collect the waste.

The state director of Emergency Management said his office is working on a plan to get it all done without federal aid.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently denied the state's second request for financial help, saying there wasn't enough damage to qualify.

Neighbors say they expect to see even more debris pile up before all of the existing waste is gone. That's because more than a dozen homes in Rocky Point are still scheduled to be demolished.

"They just keep saying they're going to do it, but they haven't done anything," Pickett said.

Pickett just got his insurance check last week. He plans to begin repairing his home soon.

Pickett hopes someone will help move a large pile of debris before he moves back in.

State emergency workers say they hope to have a debris removal plan in the next few weeks. The DOT can only collect storm debris that is piled on the side of the street.

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