Local News

Three weeks after storm, federal aid reaches Sampson County

Posted May 10, 2011 7:27 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2011 11:15 p.m. EDT

— Three weeks after a cluster of powerful tornadoes battered the state, some counties are just beginning to get federal assistance to help them recover.

The April 16 storms caused at least $10 million in damage in Sampson County, but because the need was greater in harder-hit areas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn't open a disaster assistance center there until this week.

Sampson is a large, rural county with nearly as much real estate as the state of Rhode Island. Scattered across its breadth, at least 80 homes and three dozen businesses were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes.

FEMA has opened , but the agency prioritized counties such as Wake, which was estimated to have suffered 10 times the damage in Sampson County.

FEMA calls the Clinton location a "mobile recovery center." As needs materialize county by county, the agency establishes a center for several days and then moves on to another county, said FEMA spokeswoman Bettina Hutchings.

"We do it in conjunction with the local officials, working through their state officials, who come to us with a request that we open a disaster recovery center," Hutchings said.

Although the center in Sampson County is new, Hutchings said, the agency sent outreach teams door-to-door a week after the storm to help people apply for federal aid. 

Dozens of people lined up at the center, at 360 County Complex Road in Clinton, on Tuesday to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Despite the wait, homeowner Shirley Parker is glad FEMA has arrived.

"They're here, and they're here to help people, so it's good that they're here," she said.

Parker, a minister, said her home was damaged but is still livable.

Elbert Cannady, who owns Cannady's Water Conditioning in Bonnettsville, on the other hand, said his business is a total loss. He doesn't have sufficient insurance to cover rebuilding but said the time he's devoting to clean-up will make getting to the FEMA center difficult.

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. It's scheduled to close at 5 p.m. Saturday.