EMERALD ISLE — Town officials have expressed disappointment at a federal decision to not provide individual assistance in Carteret and three other counties impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
The decision was announced Wednesday, more than a month after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in eastern North Carolina. While storm-related damage varied throughout the region, there were parts of Carteret County that sustained heavy damage.
In Emerald Isle, an RV park suffered heavy damage from a tornado that formed as Hurricane Dorian was on the approach to Carteret County. Other places like Ocracoke Island sustained heavy damage, while much of the western part of Carteret County was largely spared. Some unincorporated areas, like South River and Cedar Island experienced significant flooding.
Emerald Isle officials were hoping North Carolina’s application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance to Carteret, Dare, Hyde and New Hanover counties would be successful.
“Based on our review of all the information available, including the results of joint federal, state, and local government Preliminary Damage Assessments it has been determined that the impact to individuals and households from this event is not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance,” FEMA official Jeff Byard wrote in an open letter to Gov. Roy Cooper.
FEMA’s recent decision is a departure from President Donald Trump’s Oct. 4 decision to approve Gov. Cooper’s request for a major disaster declaration for parts of the state. That decision allows funds for debris removal and repair of public buildings.
FEMA’s ruling this week denies up to $33,000 in financial assistance for individuals to repair or pay for temporary housing.
Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber admits although Dorian didn’t devastate the county like Hurricane Florence did in 2018, there are still many people in his town in need of assistance.
“I just think FEMA needs to step forward and help people out,” Mayor Barber said Thursday. “I’m very disappointed to hear it.”
Consensus among Mr. Barber and other Emerald Isle officials was disappointment in FEMA’s decision. Town Manager Matt Zapp highlighted damage caused by the tornado that touched down, damaging 33 trailers in a mobile home park and several businesses.
“Of those 33 residences, 10 were permanent homes that directly affected 13 individuals,” Mr. Zapp wrote in an email. “In addition to the 33 residences destroyed, 14 others were significantly damaged. There were (more than 50) residents that did not have power because of the damage for over two weeks.”
Mr. Zapp said, despite the belief that Dorian wasn’t as destructive as Florence, the town and residents are still in the recovery process.
“Now, we are one-month past the storm,” Mr. Zapp wrote in an email. “The Emerald Isle Public Works team continues to actively collect vegetative debris. Daily, there are two trucks and four team members dedicated to vegetative debris removal across the island.
“To date, we have removed over 200-tons of vegetative material and are headed toward an estimated 400-tons of Dorian debris. Our goal is to remain focused on hurricane recovery until all of the…vegetative debris is removed,” he wrote.
In response to the ongoing recovery effort, the Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners voted to temporarily waive all Dorian-related permit and inspection fees. The relief expires at the beginning of 2020.
Mayor Barber said the town and other affected areas are at the mercy of state officials’ capacity to convince federal officials to reconsider.
“I’m going to be in contact with some of our elected officials,” Mayor Barber said. “I’m going to call offices to let them know how important it is to get FEMA aid.”
As of now, Mayor Barber said he hopes Emerald Isle residents impacted by the storm will get good responses from their insurance claims.
“I hope the insurance companies will come through, anyway we can help (residents) with their insurance claims we’d be happy to,” he said.
FEMA’s decision is not set in stone. Gov. Cooper has 30 days to appeal.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.