Flora Nixon stands outside her Aurora home, which must be torn down after damage from Hurricane Irene. Nixon's sister and neighbor, Annie Kelly, also suffered damages during the storm. Kelly's house is being repaired with help with volunteers from the United Methodist Disaster Response Team. The damage to Nixon's home was too extensive to allow repair.

Archived Story

No. 1 story of 2012: Hurricane Irene recovery

Published 11:16pm Saturday, December 29, 2012


Volunteers came from 22 states and three Canadian provinces to aid Beaufort County’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Irene.

Today, the work continues.

A year into recovery, the list of northern Beaufort County and Hyde County homes in need of repair had more than 125; in southern Beaufort County, that number fell between 75 and 100 — and it’s the same for Pamlico County. In greater Dare County, outside of Stumpy Point, as many as 30 homes were still in need of repair.
While the efforts of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church have returned more than 200 families to restored homes over the past year, almost twice that many names are still on a waiting list to get the help — from the faith-based disaster response organization — that was denied them by FEMA and/or insurance companies.
The assistance, both federal and state, that propelled quick recovery in 1999’s Hurricane Floyd has been much less plentiful in the aftermath of Irene.
According to a statement released by Doug Hoell Jr., director of North Carolina’s emergency management, $82 million in federal or state loans or grants was given out to repair homes, replace personal property and rebuild businesses.
The same state-overseen disaster fund that provided $1 million to the UMC conference for Hurricane Floyd’s recovery provided only $23,000 to be split between three organizations after Irene. Just as donations to the fund have dropped, so have payouts from insurance companies and FEMA, leaving the faith-based, volunteer-driven organizations to make up the difference between settlements and the actual costs of repairs, said Cliff Harvell, disaster response superintendent with NCCUMC.
As Hurricane Irene recovery efforts have disappeared from the public eye and discourse, most people believe the work is over and done with, he said, adding that funding sources, limited to begin with, are now growing scarce.
“We do desperately need volunteers and we desperately need funding,” Harvell explained. “I’m going have to be looking at pulling the reins back. The economy being down has affected the number of volunteers and donations … It’s going to be tough if we have to close down when we have hundreds of people still in need.”
In addition to the many home repairs NCCUMC has done, volunteers have built four homes from the ground up and are currently working on two more. Six more populate the waiting list, homes belonging to families displaced for a year.
Harvell said he is grateful for the 4,000-plus volunteers who’ve come from afar and made eastern North Carolina part of their mission.
“It’s just amazing that we’ve been able to do what we’ve been able do to this point,” he said. “But there’s a lot more to do.”
Twenty-three inches of water took out 1,673 books. Their spines cracked, pages soaked and bloated, shelves of books lay ruined the day after Hurricane Irene. This year, Aurora’s Hazel W. Guilford Library reopened.
The hardest loss, however, was in the destruction of historical newspaper articles about Aurora and transcriptions of oral histories told by people long deceased. While the damage total came to $44,699.95, the library received only half that amount from its flood insurance company, one of the reasons for the slower recovery. Since the return of the library to its original location in April, a new circulation desk and shelving have been added when possible.
Improvements to the library will continue to be made gradually: a small technology center, installation of a videophone for the deaf and hard of hearing, the addition of two more public access computers.

More than one year after Hurricane Irene ripped away its roof, a renovated Bath Elementary School gym reopened.
The completion of the renovations marked the end of Beaufort County Schools’ major Irene-related repairs.
The list included Chocowinity Middle School’s gym and a classroom building at Beaufort County Ed Tech Center.
“We’re relieved that we got that behind us,” said Dr. Don Phipps, superintendent of Beaufort County Schools. “It was a tremendous effort for everyone involved.”


To volunteer for Hurricane Irene recovery efforts, call 888-440-9167, NCCUMC’s disaster recovery call center. To donate to recovery efforts, send funds to NCCUMC-Hurricane Irene, 700 Waterfield Ridge Place, Garner, NC 27529.


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