Local News

Wake tornado victims on the move again

Posted May 6, 2011 2:29 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2011 5:47 p.m. EDT

— Wake County on Friday moved 86 people left homeless by last month's tornado out of temporary apartments into "more sustainable housing."

The moves weren't the only sign of change three weeks after the April 16 storms that tore across North Carolina, killing 24 and causing millions of dollars in damage.

Crews tore down Holly Springs Fire Station No. 2, which sustained heavy water damage after losing its roof in the storm. The station was built in the 1970s and was renovated three years ago, and town officials said it would take at least a year to rebuild.

Meanwhile, a Hardee's in Sanford opened for the first time since the storm. The restaurant plans to donate 10 percent of its sales through next Sunday to the American Red Cross for relief efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to start moving trailers Saturday to various counties to provide housing for people displaced by the storms. FEMA said more than $5 million in disaster aid has been provided to North Carolina so far, including about $2.9 million for housing.

In Raleigh, scores of people moved to the E.S. King Village complex on North Carolina State University's campus after the storm. A university spokesman said 150 people were housed there at one point, but many have since found other places to live.

The Red Cross said the 20 or so families who remained were being handled on a case-by-case basis. Some are moving into temporary homes, while others are headed to more permanent places. Federal disaster assistance, private donations and other funds are paying for the housing, officials said.

"We did not tell them where they were going. We assisted them in finding their own solution," said Josh Creighton of Wake County Emergency Management.

Christian Williams, whose house was destroyed when four trees fell on it during the storm, said she is tired of the unstable situation and wants a place to call home.

"We've been moving here, moving there. It's just been a lot of ups and downs. It's just been terrible," said Williams, who is four months pregnant.

She said the temporary housing provided at N.C. State has been nice, but the home she's supposed to move into is unlivable.

"(It's got) mold. The floors are coming up. ... It's just broken down. The roof is coming apart," she said. "I don't want to go because it could do something to my baby."

Wake County officials said Williams is one of only two cases where housing wasn't ready by Friday for storm victims to move. They said the county provided shelter for about 1,000 people after the tornado, and they consider it a victory to have them all in temporary or permanent housing in less than three weeks.

Williams says she and the father of her baby will be moved to an extended-stay hotel while repairs are made on the apartment. Members of St. Francis Methodist Church in Cary, who have been helping Williams, also are looking for another place for her to stay.

"It's just another hurdle I've got to jump over, but I'm going to get there," she said.

Donald Freeman is also heading to an extended-stay hotel, with hopes he can move back to his home in two or three weeks.

"I'm ready to be home. I'm tired of all this moving back and forth. It's stressful," Freeman said.

He said he's been amazed by how comfortable volunteers have made his life since the storm, and he plans to volunteer with the Red Cross in the future.

"We are strangers, and these people came out of their homes and came to help out our needs and catered to us like we was kings and queens," he said.

County officials said case workers will continue to monitor the needs of storm victims as they get back on their feet.

Meanwhile, officials said they are still trying to find money to pay for the estimated $250,000 cost of clearing storm debris from unincorporated areas of the county. The cleanup should take a few weeks once the money is in hand, they said.