DURHAM, N.C. – After Hurricane Matthew roared through coastal North Carolina in October 2016, damage in the state will total as much as $4 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Proactive steps taken by Pamlico County following 2011’s Hurricane Irene spared this North Carolina County from significant impacts.
Officials say the lack of damage can be credited to the county’s diligence in collaborating with North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the years following another devastating storm from five years earlier - Hurricane Irene.
Pamlico County encompasses 337 square miles of land and sits nearly surrounded by water at the junctions of the Pamlico and Neuse rivers and Pamlico Sound. The population of approximately 13,000 is disbursed among nine incorporated municipalities, beach homes and vacation getaways.
Hurricane Irene had a devastating impact on the sound-side communities of eastern North Carolina. In some areas, the inundation from the hurricane was as high as a 500-year flood.
FEMA brought in approximately 300 manufactured housing units to support displaced Hurricane Irene residents, whose homes, schools and churches flooded with as much as 20 feet of water.
The Goose Creek Volunteer Fire Department was flooded with nearly 5 feet of water and Oriental’s Town Hall suspended operations and moved to a trailer on higher ground. As a whole, North Carolina recorded more than $1.2 billion in damage from Irene.
Four months after the 2011 hurricane, the county, state and FEMA entered into the Pamlico County Hazard Mitigation Grant Pilot Program to assist survivors with either elevating their homes or selling them to the county, which would then demolish them. (More)
Three subgrants from the Hurricane Irene Hazard Mitigation Grant Program totaling $13 million funded the project.
“More than 300 people were interested and applied within three days,” said Nicholas Burk, section manager for hazard mitigation grants, North Carolina Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management. “Residents were enthusiastic for the assistance.”
Of the 300 applicants, 115 qualified. Half of those owners decided to elevate and the rest opted for demolition. In this pilot program, FEMA paid 75 percent of the costs and the state picked up the remaining 25 percent.
Whichever option homeowners selected, it took some time before the work began. Before demolition, the properties were sold to the county and went through traditional sale procedures – appraisal, title search, surveys and closing. As the owner, the county was required to place a restrictive deed on each property to preserve it as open space with no future development.
If owners opted for elevation, engineers were hired to certify that the structures were suitable to raise. If they were suitable, their foundations were retrofitted, and the homes were raised above the 100-year base flood elevation. Also included was utility relocation and retrofitting as well as modifications to steps/porches/decks to meet current building code.
Homeowners paid nothing for the work, except for any emergency repairs that were needed before the pilot project began. They were not reimbursed for those costs.
Also during the pilot program, the county, NCEM and FEMA assembled the first-of-its kind Hazard Mitigation Disaster Recovery Center. The state opened the center and staffed it with experts who could explain the processes and procedures for each option.
“We leveraged the name from the FEMA Individual Assistance Disaster Recovery Center because the name resonated with survivors,” Burk said.
Because the concept was successful following Hurricane Irene, the state has now scaled the Hazard Mitigation Disaster Recovery Center concept to eligible communities that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Matthew, including Princeville and Lumberton.
For more information on North Carolina’s recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4285 and readync.org. Follow FEMA on Twitter at @femaregion4 and North Carolina Emergency Management @NCEmergency.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362 or TTY at 800-462-7585.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards. Follow FEMA on Twitter at @femaregion4. Download the FEMA app with tools and tips to keep you safe before, during and after disasters.
Dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162 to speak with a trained call specialist about questions you have regarding Hurricane Matthew; the service is free, confidential and available in any language. They can help direct you to resources. Call 5-1-1 or 877-511-4662 for the latest road conditions or check the ReadyNC mobile app, which also has real-time shelter and evacuation information. For updates on Hurricane Matthew impacts and relief efforts, go to ReadyNC.org or follow N.C. Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook. People or organizations that want to help ensure North Carolina recovers can visit NCdisasterrelief.org or text NCRecovers to 30306.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private nonprofit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800) 877-8339.