AFTER WHAT SEEMED LIKE an interminable amount of time, I was able to get back to my home in Wilmington, N.C. in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Part 1 of the experience is linked at the end of this article, in case you missed it.
Massive damage was everywhere, the kind that makes you want to stop your car and stare in disbelief. Block after block of towering trees that were decades old lie on the ground, crashed through fences, across side roads and sadly, through the roofs of homes. One in particular was only about a mile from my home on the two lane route that I use daily.
My family was blessed to be spared the brunt of the storm. We had sustained a leak along our foundation that damaged some floorboards in the family room. It wasn’t flood damage since we had no flooding. I’m not even sure how to make a claim on that. Hurricane (Wind Damage) policies do not cover the first 3-5% of the value of a home, so I may venture into FEMA territory, or maybe not.
But on top of that, we did lose virtually all of our landscaping. The wind tore all my shrubs and flowers right out of the ground, along with two trees. We found one tree but everything else was gone. We had debris that was not recognizable in our front yard, and the branches and other loose debris in our small backyard filled many large trash bags. We were blessed to have power upon our return, eight days after we had evacuated to Charlotte, with the exception of a two hour period where it went down when someone cut a line while sawing up a tree.
The root balls of some of the old oaks and sycamores are 20 feet high. I am amazed at how quickly though, our county has cleaned up. The trees and branches have mostly been cut up and are stacked along roadsides for miles. The roadways are clear. Trash bags are stacked high at every driveway.
The story is not quite the same for the highways and other arteries into town. Highway 421 coming in from north of Wilmington is still flooded in some spots and totally washed away in others. And I-40, the main route from Raleigh finally is being exposed after the waters began receding early Friday morning. What remained was a sight to see. I can’t imagine the smell in the hot sun.
Closer to home, Carolina Beach sustained both flood and wind damage. I had fortuitously taken a photo of a business – a wine shop that sells various olive oils on the beach boardwalk – on the Tuesday before the storm hit. It was boarded up and hoping for the best. However, in the next photo, the window on the second floor reveals that afterwards, the roof was totally blown away. Boarding up windows does not always keep buildings protected.
At one point on the drive home, I was blocked from driving through as a tree was being removed from the road. Fortunately, I was the first car to be allowed to pass through as it was being pulled to the side.
The workers from Duke Energy and other power companies who came to help from many other states numbered over 40,000. They were incredible! They are continuing to put in long hours and have gotten so many areas up and running with power much more quickly than time estimates. The areas that are still compromised with flood waters, such as Duplin County will have longer to wait for power since ground water hinders the ability of power companies to work safely. But over all I can’t give these people enough credit.
Other people behind the scenes are those who coordinate the first responders, rescuers and deliverers of much needed supplies. There are thousands of people involved. The key is getting people and supplies to where they are most needed. Chaos would ensue without volunteers who pour their hearts into this effort and work tirelessly to make sure things get done as best as possible.
Our own writer, Lynda Bryant Work, is a researcher and supply coordinator who is in the field. She has a lot of experience with catastrophes, having worked through both Hurricane Irma and Harvey, in her home state of Texas. The work goes on long after the storm is gone.
Lynda tries to sort out what has already been done so that teams not only don’t waste their time doing search and rescues but don’t endanger their lives. She explained to me why it’s often much more efficient for local professionals to handle supply delivery than FEMA:
“FEMA just cut off a guy who was hauling in bottled water, dry food, and blankets and has been [doing so] for a few days…During Irma, they came in and confiscated a warehouse of donations, including a tanker of fuel for the rescuers. This is what they do.”
It would seem that if the government could coordinate with the power companies, it could have supplies delivered to where they are needed most, and there would be much less waste, but how does the private sector explain this to them?
Often, it is the smaller charitable organizations who can be very effective in getting what is needed to the right places. My church works with Hearts With Hands, (https://www.heartswithhands.org)
Hearts With Hands is very familiar with what areas tend to flood first and which zones are the most vulnerable, so they often get the supplies to the areas well in advance of an approaching hurricane. They have worked in many states that have experienced disasters, including the wildfires in California. Please click on the blue letters in the above paragraph to see how to donate funds or actual supplies.
They need to continue to hand out boxes of necessities to those who need them. Each box costs about $20. So far, between the boxes and diapers and cleaning supplies, they have delivered over $250,000 worth of goods as a result of Hurricane Florence. The director, Greg Lentz, visited our church this morning:
Much more can be covered concerning such a disaster. There are stories of tragedies and miracles that always result from these, and humanity proves itself to care about one another every time. Let us not forget that we need each other, and how blessed we really are. Don’t let it take a hurricane to remind us.
Here is Part 1 of the article: https://www.nationalcompass.net/2018/09/17/from-inside-looking-out-weather-report-from-wilmington-resident-part-one/
I am concluding this article with a sadly beautiful video compiled by Tabitha Pinkston, using public images taken by others from the storm. Please watch. It is well worthwhile: