Hurricane Florence left a lot of devastation across North and South Carolina. This hurricane was different than other hurricanes in the past. The track of the storm was predicted to make landfall around Wilmington NC as a Category 4 storm and turn north up the coast into northeastern North Carolina and then on up into Virginia. Typically, a hurricane of this magnitude with water temperatures as high as they were will make landfall and the storm surge causes most of the devastation. They will then travel quickly over land dumping 5 – 10 inches of rainwater in its path as it decreases in strength.
On Monday before the storm arrived there were models showing that the storm was going to come ashore, stall out, and then wobble back south down into South Carolina, move further west and then go north into the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Projected rainfall totals climbed from 5 – 10 inches to over 20- 30 inches in some places.
When Florence made landfall, it had dropped in strength but still posed serious life-threatening effects. While the oceanfront areas flooded due to the high storm surge, the watersheds along the Neuse, Pamlico, Trent, New, and Cape Fear Rivers saw unprecedented rainfall amounts and widespread flooding. Thirty inches of rain fell in and around those watersheds and the flooding was devastating. Thirty-nine people lost their lives in the storm. Hundreds of people needed to be rescued from rising waters well off the banks of these rivers. Over 5000 homes in one county were completely flooded. Areas that had only seen minor flooding in the past storms saw high levels of water with Florence.
For weeks communication was difficult. Power lines, phone lines, and internet service was down. When they could, people received most of their information through Facebook and other social media sources. In the early hours, it was difficult for people to know where to turn to get help. As first responders and volunteers began making their way into the area, people were moved to schools, churches, and other places that were used as temporary shelters.
Last week students at several schools returned to class. These schools were either damaged directly in the flooding or sustained damage while being used as shelters. Some of the damage came from the amount of water getting into the schools from water-soaked people and belongings that were sheltered. The schools had no power, so the heating and cooling systems were not running thus not being able to dry out the air. Once the power came back on, it took several weeks to get those in the shelter relocated and get the schools cleaned up and tested to make sure the air quality was safe for students and teachers to return.
As the storm was coming ashore The North Carolina Home Builders Association began taking steps to aid in the recovery. We began coordinating our efforts to assess the needs after the storm passed. We reached out to the local associations to see out what they needed. The local executive officers and our NCHBA staff worked with local municipalities to get building and FEMA permitting information into the hands of builders and homeowners. Most building permit fees were waived to help the citizens in this time of need.
Many people will be living with relatives, in hotels, or FEMA emergency housing for an extended period. The cleanup is progressing but when you don’t have a home to return to, it’s not fast enough. The larger urban areas are getting back on their feet, but the rural areas are struggling to get the services they need.
Rebuilding will take time. Over the last 20 years the, homebuilding industry has lost almost 2 generations of workers coming into the business. This makes the rebuilding effort take longer.
Please consider contributing to local charities to help aid in the rebuilding effort. As Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches keep those in mind who have lost their homes, vehicles, belongings and family treasures in the storm. North Carolina Home Builders Association is collecting donations through its Charitable Foundation to help aid members get back on their feet. You can make a donation here.