PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Four months after Hurricane Florence hit southeastern North Carolina, some people are just starting to rebuild.
Some residents in the Whitestocking area of Pender County said they got their building permits on Monday. Floodwaters submerged most of the homes there.
Most gutted their homes soon after Florence, only to see the debris stay in their yards while they lived in donated campers nearby.
According to Kyle Breuer with the county’s planning and development department, residents need to elevate or modify their homes in some way to fall under flood plain regulations. Then, he said, a building permit can be issued.
The damaged church in Whitestocking is the center of the community and full of donations, some of which were delivered from Pennsylvania on Thursday morning.
“Four months later, you’d think people would forget about you,” Marakeshi Brown, who lives on Whitestocking Road, said. “For the people who think that, ‘Oh, it’s OK. Everything is back to normal.’ That’s not true. But to the people who say, ‘I’m going to go help just in case it’s not back to normal,’ thank you a million. Thank you infinity. Thank you one million times over.”
Brown lives in a camper with her grandma. She said even though they have a permit, they probably won’t rebuild until contractors become more available.
Four months after Florence, Brown said she could’ve never predicted she’d still be in this situation, but her neighbors and church have gotten her through.
“I promise you, it can all be gone in a matter of seconds," Brown said. "Don’t ever just take it for granted. (Florence) has taught me to be grateful.
“We were almost evicted without a choice. We didn’t choose this, and it has been four months in and we still haven’t chosen this.”
Neighbor Amelia Bridges shared Brown’s sentiments.
“We lost everything and then to have to try to build up and still keep your same morale every day and still trying to keep going, and the fact that it’s four months later and I’m still in this situation, meaning I’m still trying to recover, it’s just a hard situation,” Bridges said.
Bridges is hoping to get into a FEMA trailer soon. According to FEMA spokesperson John Mills, people should be in dozens of trailers in the next few weeks in Pender County. He said the trailers are in commercial trailer parks.
FEMA doesn’t always provide temporary housing after hurricanes, Mills said. In fact, only 13 counties in North Carolina were approved for direct housing.
In Pender County’s case, 2,500 households were approved for FEMA grants. That approval rate is five times higher than the average across other counties, Mills said, because of the extensive damage in the area, but also due to the lack of available housing away from flood zones.
Mills said FEMA can’t always put the trailers on people’s private property because there has to be a working utility hookup. FEMA has put 171 families in Pender County in trailers, and Mills said FEMA is more than halfway done putting the number of qualified people in them.