This story is part of an ongoing anniversary series on Hurricane Florence, which struck in September 2018, and the storm’s lingering effects on Carteret County and its residents.
MOREHEAD CITY — One year after Hurricane Florence caused widespread damage and forced some Crystal Coast Apartments tenants out of their homes for more than six months, residents now worry they may soon face a similar fate as a result of Hurricane Dorian.
Although Dorian caused relatively minor damage in Carteret County, especially compared to Hurricane Florence, some residents of the complex at 2109 Mayberry Loop Road claim they have been informed they will have to vacate their apartments for repairs. There has been no official written notice to vacate, however, and representatives from the complex and its parent company, Washington-based Cambridge Management Inc., did not respond to requests for comments on the matter.
Sterling Adams lives in the 300 block of Crystal Coast Apartments with his partner, two children and his disabled mother. He said his apartment experienced water infiltration due to part of the ceiling caving in during Dorian, and his kitchen and living room filled with about 2 inches of water.
“We had water come in through the closet, we had water come in through the back door, it was just leaking out water,” he said Thursday.
When contractors came out to inspect the damage, Mr. Adams said they told him he would have to vacate the apartment while they make repairs because water had saturated the walls and insulation. Now, he said he and his family are in limbo, waiting to hear if and when they will have to leave and for how long. He said other residents with damage were told something similar, though nobody has received official notice, so far.
If they do have to leave, Mr. Adams isn’t sure where his family will go. Last year, The Salvation Army helped pay for their extended stay at the Islander Hotel in Atlantic Beach, where several displaced families, including others from Crystal Coast Apartments, lived for months after Florence. But Mr. Adams said that isn’t an option this time around and he can’t afford to pay out of pocket to stay in hotel or other temporary housing. Most church groups are also out of the question, as he and his partner have faced discrimination in the past as a gay couple.
“We don’t know where we’re going to go,” Mr. Adams said. “…We don’t have any help out here this time. We don’t know how long we’re going to be gone, but I know we’re going to have to move.”
Unlike Florence, Dorian has not triggered a major federal disaster declaration, which would kick start public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There also hasn’t been the same level of support from other relief organizations, since the damage was not nearly as widespread as it was from Florence.
Mr. Adams said he feels like he’s living Florence all over again. In mid-October last year, about one month after Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, Crystal Coast Apartments tenants received notice they had 72 hours to vacate the apartments for repairs. He’s worried between the damage from Dorian and the potential threat of more storms on the horizon, his family will lose everything once more.
“Last year we had to throw everything away, and I’m thinking it may happen again this year,” Mr. Adams said. “They just said this morning within the next seven days we could have another storm. We have a cold front moving in that’s going to bring rain. It’s going to cause more moisture, more mold, and my kids, myself, my mom, John (Mr. Adams’ partner) – I just see us losing everything again in this situation.”
Mr. Adams and his family were not able to move back into their home until the end of February, more than five months after Florence struck. Some other Crystal Coast Apartments tenants were gone even longer. He said the experience was trying, especially for his kids, who are now 6 and 12 years old.
“It was tough having to spend the holidays like that. We had no Thanksgiving, no way to cook big meals like that, we were having to eat with strangers,” he said. “Santa Claus had to be delivered in a hotel room. It’s really rough on the kids.”
When they finally moved back into their apartment in February, Mr. Adams said at first, it seemed the damage from Florence was repaired. However, he said it did not take long for damage to begin revealing itself again.
“Everything was shined up clean, there were no bugs crawling, nothing like that, we had a new bathroom area,” Mr. Adams said. “But within a month or so everything that they replaced fell apart. The bathroom stuff came off the walls, the toilet paper holder fell off, the door frame for the bathroom is movable. They did some (poor) work. I’m fed up.”
Crystal Coast Apartments residents have complained for years about poor conditions at the complex, including pervasive mold, leaky roofs and sagging floors. Mr. Adams himself has had to switch apartments due to unsafe floors in an old unit.
Ultimately, Mr. Adams wishes he had answers sooner, rather than later, about what the future holds for him and his family. He doesn’t want to move away from Morehead City, but said this might be what convinces him to leave.
“All I want is a letter stating that we have to leave here due to hurricane damage and repairs,” he said. “We’ve got people here in Morehead (City) who are about to be homeless. We need the community to get resources together for us. We can’t do this thing alone.”
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.