Three years on, hundreds of families still wait for repairs after damage from Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence survivors, front to back, Imanni Bernhardt, 9, Pailyn Bernhardt, 12, Juelz Bernhardt, 14, and Marcus Becton, 23, stand outside their mobile home in Newport that was damaged during Hurricane Florence in September 2018. Their family is among many in Carteret County still waiting for repairs following the Category 1 hurricane that devastated the area three years ago. (Cheryl Burke photo)

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 12:22 p.m. Tuesday Sept., 2021, to correct the location of one of the homes. It was also corrected previously to accurately report the first names of one of the subjects. 

MOREHEAD CITY — There are still at least 254 Carteret County families waiting for home repairs three years after Hurricane Florence devastated the Crystal Coast with flooding rains and wind, according to a nonprofit group assisting with recovery efforts.

“There are still a lot of people struggling and they need help,” Kay Coole, chairperson of Carteret Long Term Recovery Alliance, said Wednesday.

There are residents like Sheila Moore, 58, of Morehead City, whose mobile home flooded when a section of the roof came off during the storm, which struck Sept. 14-15, 2018.

“We lost our furniture and there was a lot of damage,” Ms. Moore said Wednesday as she watched volunteers with CLTRA repair a section of flooring in her single-wide trailer in Ballou Mobile Home Park. “We sprayed down our furniture and have been living here because we didn’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t have insurance.”

As well as facing the long wait for home repairs, Ms. Moore, a certified nursing assistant at Brookdale, is dealing with her husband being in hospice in the final stages of cancer.

“My son is with me,” she said. “I just feel good that they (CLTRA) are helping me. I am thankful they could get to us.”

James Buckingham, who helps oversee volunteer work teams with CLTRA, said the reality for Ms. Moore, and many others who live in older mobile homes that sustained damage, is the dwellings are not 100% repairable.

“A lot of these trailers were built back in the 70s and are past their life expectancy,” he said. “More than half of the work we do is for deterioration. All we can do is fix them enough to be inhabitable. We’re covering floor areas where they have collapsed. In most cases it would be cheaper for them to purchase a new mobile home, but many of these folks can’t afford that.”

Three years on, hundreds of families still wait for repairs after damage from Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence survivor Sheila Moore of Morehead City watches Carteret Long Term Recovery Alliance volunteer James Buckingham cut plywood Wednesday to place on the floor of her mobile home that was damaged during the Category 1 storm that hit the coast in September 2018. (Cheryl Burke photo)

With help from CLTRA volunteers, Ms. Moore is applying for help through the Homeowner Recovery Program of ReBuild NC, a program established by the state Office of Recovery and Resiliency to help homeowners repair, reconstruct or elevate homes damaged by hurricanes that have hit the North Carolina coast in recent years. The program is part of a comprehensive plan to distribute federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds within North Carolina’s hardest hit communities.

Ms. Coole said the goal is to make Ms. Moore’s current home safer while they guide her through the application process and hopefully get her a new mobile home.

“We have several survivors in similar situations,” Ms. Coole said.

Another individual still waiting for extensive repairs is Donna Werner, who lives with her daughter and four grandchildren in a single-wide trailer in Dutch Treat Mobile Home Park in Newport.

Ms. Werner and her family lived in a mobile home next to the one she is currently living in. Hurricane Florence completely destroyed her former residence, causing it to be condemned. While she received some funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ms. Werner said she had to use those funds to have the condemned trailer removed from the lot.

She and her family temporarily rented a small trailer while her late partner, Mark, tried to make repairs to the one they are currently living in, which was also damaged during Hurricane Florence.

Her late partner was able to get a new roof on the 1985 trailer, which they purchased prior to moving in. However, there is still extensive damage to the home. There’s no ceiling in one of the children’s bedrooms. There are holes in the floor and electrical damage. There’s no functioning heating system and there is black mold in one of the bathrooms.

Sadly, Ms. Werner’s partner died since the storm hit, and she is currently working as a waitress at IHOP in Morehead City. She had previously worked at Golden Corral in Morehead City, which closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three years on, hundreds of families still wait for repairs after damage from Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence survivor Juelz Bernhardt, 14, of Morehead City, looks at the ceiling in his bedroom Wednesday that was damaged three years ago during Hurricane Florence. His family is among many Carteret County residents still waiting for repairs. (Cheryl Burke photo)

Ms. Coole said CLTRA got a preliminary estimate on repairs for the trailer and Mr. Buckingham had planned to do a walk through of the trailer last week. Since Ms. Werner did not own the mobile home when Hurricane Florence hit, she doesn’t qualify for help through ReBuild NC.

“A requirement of ReBuild NC is that you had to own your home when the storm hit,” Ms. Coole said.

Ms. Werner said she has applied for help through numerous agencies and has been turned down for assistance.

“I was shot down so much that I gave up,” she said. “I just want a little help for my electric and to make my home safe. I’m grateful for any help I can get.”

Ms. Coole said there are other families in similar situations, but because CLTRA is a nonprofit volunteer organization, it depends on donations and willing laborers. The group has fought several obstacles to keep repairs going, including losing volunteers during the pandemic and a lack of donations to purchase supplies and materials.

“We need volunteers and donations,” Ms. Coole said. “Now that COVID restrictions have lifted some, we have a few work teams from other places scheduled this fall, but what we need are local volunteers for the long term. We need work teams, but also need volunteers to help with administrative tasks. We also need donations to purchase the materials.”

Those interested in volunteering can email Ms. Coole at chair.cltra@gmail.com.

Those interested in donating toward supplies and materials can mail checks, made out to CLTRA, P.O. Box 543, Morehead City, NC 28557. They can also donate online at unitedwaycoastalnc.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=27. Click on the Carteret Long Term Recovery Alliance link.

 

 

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(5) comments

hlawson

It's heartbreaking. Drive down through North River and you'll still see several RVs in front yards of houses falling apart from that storm. Drive through Newport and you can see the now-overgrown remains of houses condemned after Florence. That storm deeply scarred our community and it will take a long time to fully recover.

David Collins

Yes it is depressing . By now it should be obvious that all this is so far down the list for government aid that more waiting is futile .

But , it has been three years now and the folks are just going to have to take this on by themselves . A bit strange that the commissioners have not had at least a few of these destroyed structures demolished or hauled off but who knows what flits through their minds . Public safety and all that . Not like the money is not available , build back better and all that rubbish, but priorities , priorities is the name of the game and this is pretty far down the pecking order .

Such is life in eastern NC .

quicksand

Am I understanding correctly-Ms. Werner bought a hurricane damaged trailer? The article states she bought the trailer but didn’t qualify for FEMA help because she didn’t own it when the storm hit.

Lissa

No the trailer was already ours both mine and my mother's were destroyed (we lived side by side hers was completely destroyed) mine was the least to be repaired so we fixed that one up because we needed a roof over our head and there was nothing available. but there is still so much damage and she has tried numerous times to get help and cannot... And she now owns this one

quicksand

From the article-

“ Ms. Coole said CLTRA got a preliminary estimate on repairs for the trailer and Mr. Buckingham had planned to do a walk through of the trailer last week. Since Ms. Werner did not own the mobile home when Hurricane Florence hit, she doesn’t qualify for help through ReBuild NC.

“A requirement of ReBuild NC is that you had to own your home when the storm hit,” Ms. Coole said.”

Is this article incorrect?

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