Jose Perez-Santiago, left, and Rosemary Acevedo-Gonzalez, walk with their daughter Jordalis, 2, after getting her clothes on return to their home for the first time since it was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N. C., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. “I didn’t know that we would lose everything,” said Perez-Santiago. “We just need to start at the bottom again.” (AP Photo/David Goldman)
SPRING LAKE, N. C. – With Florence water receding in some places and still threatening others, tired and waterlogged North Carolinians finally have a chance to take stock of the destruction of the wind and the water.
When rivers spilled from their banks this week, many were forced to flee their homes in several towns in the interior. Now the waters are receding, property owners along the banks, picking through debris and figure out what is left of their homes and livelihood.
Jose Perez-Santiago, a war in Afghanistan veteran, things picked up on Wednesday of a Spring Lake house is flooded by the overflowing River.
“I didn’t know that we would lose everything,” said Perez-Santiago. “We just need to start at the bottom again.”
For some residents in Wilmington, a city on the coast is dotted with downed trees and water, the storm offered the bittersweet bargain of non-stop, exhausting work that comes with a salary for the help of others.
Stanley Hall, 54, had to walk 4 km from the hotel (6 miles) to come to a downtown Wilmington hotel, along with about 50 other locals doing temporary work for SERVPRO, which specializes in cleaning up water damage in homes and buildings.
Hall said that he was earning $12 per hour for the SERVPRO of work, two dollars more than the agency normally pays. He has also worked on about double a normal week, hours of the meaning of a lot of overtime.
“I’m not crazy is that, that’s for sure,” he said.
In the interior of Lumberton, hard hit by the floods of the Wood River, Wavon Rogers released a few days after the storm as a civilian volunteer with his boat and truck ferrying 18 people away from flooded homes, or back to pick up medicine and essential possessions.
With the sun and Lumberton roads dry, he is a shift back to his job as an electrical contractor, helping homeowners restore power or hook-up generators. He told a reporter by phone he only had a few minutes to talk while working on a task before you to others.
“I’m busy services, up to this time, the wiring for the generators,” he said.
Lumberton home owner Kenneth Campbell told me that he is at least a foot of water in his one-story home when a friend took him in his flooded neighbourhood on a boat on Tuesday.
“The water was right over my floors,” he said.
Campbell’s house also flooded during the Hurricane Matthew, and he did not expect that faced with the prospect of rebuilding two years later. Asked whether he thought his home and flood insurance coverage could offer plenty of time to rebuild, or if he would need more help from the government, he said he wasn’t sure.
“It’s hard to say,” he said, in a low, sad sounding voice. “Things are constantly changing.”
In Campbell’s ward, Kevin Caudle has donned waders to wade in and check on his house several days this week. He fears that the water can crawl up his crawl space and can cause more damage.
“Came to the house to pump water in the crawl space of today, but when I got there the water was increased, probably 3 to 4 inches in the basement entrance,” he said to a reporter in a text message. “Very depressing, but we will make it through.”
Others, meanwhile, had yet to make of shelters in planning their next move.
Sonja Graham is a stay in a shelter in Fayetteville with her daughter and two grandchildren since Saturday, when she had to evacuate her Robeson County home. Shortly after the evacuation, Graham says that her house collapsed when unrelenting rain soaked the roof and the walls.
“I lost everything on my birthday,” she said Wednesday night.
With few homes available right now, Graham said that she has no other choice to stay in the shelter and wait for FEMA aid. But even with government help, new homes can still be difficult to find. She said that the Lumberton-area housing stock was depleted by the Hurricane Matthew, and many houses were still being repaired from the storm two years ago, when Florence hit.
“Most of these houses are not fixed, including the house I grew up in,” she said. “The people hadn’t even finished putting it back together.”
Suderman reported from Wilmington, N. C. Associated Press reporters Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, and David Goldman in Spring Lake contributed to this report.