Area agencies respond to hurricane aftermath

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Varying forms of assistance are available — or will be available soon — for residents and businesses adversely affected by Hurricane Matthew, according to government officials.

James Madson, director of the Beaufort County Health Department, said the department’s environmental section began responding to specific needs Sunday morning. “Right now, we’re mostly trying to get establishments back up and running — things like food establishments, day care centers, school cafeterias. Those kind of activities where the environmental-health specialists are out inspection to make sure the products that are being served to consumers are fit to be served,” Madson said Wednesday.

Restaurants, school cafeterias, day care centers and other places that sell or serve food to the public must follow specific regulations during and after power outages.

After an extended power outage, hot food and refrigerated and frozen items must be discarded. If a facility is closed by the health department after an extended power outage, it must remain closed until the health department permits it to reopen.

Even if cleared to reopen, some facilities waited a day or two for food deliveries.

Customers at the No Wake Zone Grill drank coffee Tuesday morning while waiting for the Beaufort County Health Department to green light the restaurant to serve food. When that permission was given, customers placed orders, and cooks and servers got those orders out as soon as possible.

Grill owners Michael and Danielle Hunnings and employees did the best they could with what they had available. Tuesday and Wednesday, they made trips to the grocery store to stock up on bacon, eggs, bread, cheese and other staples.

Currently, there are no boil-water advisories for Beaufort County residents.

“There are notices about not playing in the water because you don’t know what’s in the water,” Madson said. Across the region, health officials warn that floodwaters likely contain contaminants such as gasoline, diesel fuel, oil, untreated sewage, animal carcasses and other potentially hazardous materials. There are resources to help some residents clean their homes, if needed.

“There will be kits available to help clean up houses. Those should be coming out soon. We know some of them can be picked up at the environmental health section of the health department downtown. They also will be given out at the points of distribution that the (Emergency Operations Center) puts out,” Madson said. “I think they’re going to do it at the food places, but they may do it at some other places like fire departments. Those kits will be coming out.”

Madson was not sure of the sites where the cleanup kits would be distributed. The EOC food distribution sites are in Aurora, 230 N. Fifth St. (next to the post office); and in the parking lot behind 840 W. 15th St. in Washington (that site serves people in or near Washington and Chocowinity).

Currently, the Beaufort County Department of Social Services is not taking applications for disaster food and nutrition services.

“The state and federal governments have not determined if or when we would be taking disaster applications. Anyone that is currently receiving Food and Nutrition Services may request a replacement allotment for benefits that have been lost due to flooding or power outages,” wrote Amy Alligood, income maintenance supervisor with the department, in a email, adding there is confusion among the public about the disaster food and nutrition program. “Everyone needs to be aware that if they are in an area that has not been affected by flooding or power outages, then they are ineligible for replacement benefits. Anyone that applies for and receives a replacement allotment will not be eligible for any other type assistance for disaster benefits that may be issued under Food and Nutrition Services.”

Applications for regular food and nutrition services will be available, but all policy requirements for regular benefits must be met. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is conducting daily conference calls with all of the state’s 100 counties to provide daily updates in regards to replacement benefits as well as the status of continued concerns within counties. A decision whether the department will be taking applications for disaster food and nutrition services is up to the federal and state governments.

“We encourage everyone to continue to monitor their local news channels for updates related to this matter and possible other federal programs that the Department of Social Services may offer related to this disaster,” Alligood wrote.

The department dealt with 734 people who came to its office Tuesday, Alligood noted.

Private organizations are helping storm victims, too.

“We were able to distribute to about 62 families (Tuesday),” said Ann-Marie Montague with Eagle’s Wings. “Also, we have had many people come in for emergency boxes of food (this week) who were referred to us by DSS, the Senior Center, the Salvation Army, by lots of different area agencies.”

Eagle’s Wings also received help. “We did have a refrigerated truck brought in. A local trucking company donated it. We were able to save all of our frozen meat. … We had about $5,000 worth of meat that we were able to save. We didn’t lose anything,” Montague said.

As the Washington Daily News receives details about types of assistance available to area residents and businesses, it will post them here on the website.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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