Hurricane Irene victims 'are still really suffering'

Posted October 27, 2011 11:48 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2011 6:57 p.m. EDT

— It has been two months since Hurricane Irene hit parts of eastern North Carolina, and, in many places, the cleanup is far from over. In Beaufort and Pamlico counties, flooding was a big part of the problem, leaving homes and businesses uninhabitable.

At Carolina Seafood in Beaufort County, workers have been shaping the company back to what it was before the storm. There wasn't much left of the crab processing company following the hurricane.

“I just went to my knees and cried,” said Vance Henries, owner of Carolina Seafood. “Walls were busted in. We had trees – floating trees – that had come in like torpedoes and just took walls out.”

With nowhere to process the crabs, most of the employees had to look elsewhere for work. Employee Janet Diffenderfer says, after a hurricane, “elsewhere” is hard to find.

“No (one was) hiring. They weren’t even hiring before the hurricane hit,” she said.

Crossing over into nearby Pamlico County, some homeowners say it’s tough to tell it has been two months, or two days, since Irene.

“It feels like forever. Although, then it still feels like yesterday, and I just keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it was all a dream,” said homeowner Sue Caroon.

Caroon's family was hit hard by the storm. Her mother-in-law owned a home and used it as a rental property, but Irene damaged it beyond repair.

Caroon’s and her husband’s house, which was remodeled several months ago, now has mold so thick that it looks like cobwebs. Caroon and her husband were home when the water flooded the house.

“It came in so fast that we really had no time to really get anything,” she said.

In both counties, things are slowly returning to normal. Though operating at just 30 percent of its normal workload, Carolina Seafood has returned to sorting crabs. The Caroons now have a temporary trailer installed in their front yard. They all realize they have a long way to go.

“People here in this area are still really suffering,” Caroon said.

Carolina Seafood's owners say they hope to be back to processing crabs by March. The Caroons say they are working on getting a small business loan to help them rebuild.