Nearly six months after Hurricane Matthew’s devastating landfall, North Carolina continues to make strides to help survivors and communities rebuild, but more help is needed for full recovery.
“Matthew was a life-changing storm for North Carolina that uprooted families, and damaged homes, schools, farms and businesses,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “Our communities are strong, and we’re working hard to make sure they have the resources and expertise needed as they rebuild.”
In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew claimed 28 lives in North Carolina, displaced thousands of families, and caused an estimated $4.8 billion in damage to homes, businesses, public facilities, agriculture, roads and more. That number is based on an economic study conducted by Emergency Management post-disaster, the needs funded thus far, and identified unmet needs.
To date, approximately $1.4 billion in state and federal funds have been dedicated to provide temporary shelter, repair damaged homes, businesses and public facilities, and develop plans to rebuild stronger communities. State officials anticipate significant additional funding will be needed, and this week Gov. Cooper asked Congress for nearly $1 billion additional federal dollars for unmet recovery needs. State legislators will also be asked to appropriate matching funds and fulfill non-federal requests in support of efforts to rebuild.
“Part of recovering from a disaster like Hurricane Matthew is learning important lessons about what to do to be better prepared when the next storm hits,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “In fact, countless lives were saved and property damaged minimized in some areas thanks to mitigation measures that have been applied and resources that were developed after previous storms.”
North Carolina is making progress toward recovery in a number of areas.
- Temporary Housing: Approximately 270 families displaced by Matthew continue to live in hotels under a FEMA temporary shelter program, down from more than 3,000 families. Widespread damage to rental properties, including low-income housing, has kept the temporary shelter program open in the hardest hit counties.
- Roads: The N.C. Department of Transportation has reopened all but 14 of 625 roads that Hurricane Matthew damaged or closed.
- Public Projects: FEMA has approved $42 million for 385 local projects to repair, relocate or replace dozens of heavily damaged public facilities and infrastructure projects, ranging from restoring senior centers and a community ball field to replacing fire stations and sewer treatment facilities.
- Hazard Mitigation: NCEM and FEMA conducted education and intake sessions in 18 communities that are eligible for financial help to reduce the likelihood of future storm damage, including buyouts. Nearly 2,400 applicants registered by the March 31 deadline for expedited processing; several hundred more applications are expected before the final May 1 deadline.
- CDBG-DR Action Plan: draft plan put forward to use $198.5 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds appropriated by Congress through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Action Plan focuses on addressing economic development and a critical lack of affordable housing, especially in the hard hit counties of Edgecombe, Wayne, Robeson and Cumberland. The plan is available for public comment until April 14, 2017.
More help is on the way for communities, families and businesses working to recover from Hurricane Matthew, including:
- Community Recovery Plans under development for the hardest hit communities: Fair Bluff, Kinston, Lumberton, Princeville, Seven Springs and Windsor. The state’s $200 million Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 requires that each of the federally declared counties receive a resilient development plan, to help them be better prepared to respond to future disasters.
- Disaster Case Managers to help survivors in hard-hit communities identify unmet, disaster-related needs, connect them with employment and planning assistance, and monitor progress. Using a $4.5 million FEMA grant, North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) hired Lutheran Services Carolinas to pair case managers with survivors in 45 eligible counties. Survivors can get a referral to a disaster case manager through their local Department of Social Services, Long Term Recovery Groups and the state Helpline (855-336-2002), available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Housing Counselors to help families transition from temporary housing to permanent housing. Counselors work withNCHousingSearch.org and other state and local entities to identify safe, sanitary and functional housing for those displaced by Hurricane Matthew. Referrals to housing counselors are made by Temporary Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program staff based in Cumberland, Edgecombe and Robeson counties. Appointments are recommended but walk-ins are accepted.
- Crisis Counselors to help survivors with mental health and emotional challenges. Twenty-five FEMA-trained counselors are providing services in local communities through a new program, HOPE 4 NC, and more will be added as the program expands. For information about eligibility or where services are available, contact Eastpointe at 800-913-6109 or Alliance at 919-651-8401.
- Long Term Recovery Groups to unite local leaders from service agencies, volunteer groups and faith-based organizations to develop solutions to address unmet needs and unique local concerns. Five counties had an active Long Term Recovery Group before Hurricane Matthew struck in October, 13 more currently are forming, and 21 additional counties have identified a process for ensuring unmet needs are addressed.
“As we continue to help survivors get back to permanent homes and jobs, and communities rebuild, we want everyone to have a proactive emergency plan to minimize future risks,” urged state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.
Sprayberry noted that Hurricane Preparedness Week this year will be observed May 7-13 to help ensure that individuals, families and communities are prepared for hurricane season, which runs June 1 through November 30.
About Hurricane Matthew
Matthew made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm on October 8, 2016 and then dumped between eight and 12 inches of rain across much of central and eastern North Carolina over the next two days. The storm caused flooding in all six of the state’s river basins and, in some areas, was classified as a 100-year, 500-year or even 1,000-year event.
Swift water and helicopter rescue teams pulled 2,336 people from the floodwaters. More than 4,000 people sought safety in 109 shelters. Ten states sent help to North Carolina including swift water boat teams, nurses, mobile kitchens, food and water and emergency management teams.
The storm caused an estimated $4.8 billion in damage to North Carolina. That figure is based on an economic study conducted by Emergency Management post-disaster, the needs funded thus far, and identified unmet needs.
The president issued an expedited disaster declaration October 10, 2016, that was amended several times as the extent of damage became more apparent. In the end, FEMA approved 45 North Carolina counties for both Individual and Public Assistance funds, and five additional counties for Public Assistance funds only.
In addition to many donations of food, household furnishings, clothing and cash, N.C. Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NCVOAD) estimates that people have dedicated thousands of service hours for clean-up, repair and support for storm survivors.
More information about Hurricane Matthew Recovery is available at rebuildnc.gov. Emergency preparedness resources can be found at ReadyNC.org, which also is available for smart phones as a downloadable app.