Disaster Recovery Center to close on Saturday

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Beaufort County residents who want to speak in person to representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration about impacts from Hurricane Florence have until 7 p.m. Saturday to do so.

As of this weekend, the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Washington will close its doors, as federal resources are mobilized to respond to southern states that have been devastated by Hurricane Michael.

“A lot of the resources that are now being demobilized here in Beaufort County and eastern North Carolina are being reassigned to Florida and areas impacted by Michael,” Beaufort County Chief of Fire and Emergency Management Chris Newkirk said.

While the DRC is closing, that does not mean that residents in recovery will be unable to access federal services. Communication with FEMA is still possible through the agency’s 800-621-3362 phone number, the FEMA mobile app or online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

“In the absence of this physical office, everything will go back to what is a normal communication with FEMA, being phone numbers and online access to their accounts,” Newkirk said.

As of Tuesday, 1,316 individuals had applied for FEMA assistance, with $725,000 in federal relief funds awarded in Beaufort County.

Locally, Newkirk said the county’s disaster relief hotline, accessible at 252-495-6040, will remain online for at least the next few weeks. This number allows individuals in need to connect with resources providing disaster relief throughout the county.

Likewise, local agencies such as Beaufort County Emergency Services, the Beaufort County Department of Social Services and the Beaufort County Health Department will continue to be resources for area residents impacted by Hurricane Florence.

One of the biggest jobs yet ahead for Beaufort County is the process of debris removal. According to Newkirk, the process requires extensive collaboration between local, state and federal resources.

“Our target goal all along was to have debris removed by the end of October/first of November,” Newkirk said. “That was our initial deadline when we started the recovery phase, and we’re still on track with that. There’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy when it comes to debris removal, recouping expenses and reimbursements. There’s a lot of channels that has to go through to get approval.”

Newkirk anticipates that the review process for debris removal should be finished by Monday, at which point the contractor handling debris removal will begin establishing scheduled routes. Detailed information on those routes will be shared as it becomes available.

Above all, Newkirk says the people of Beaufort County have shown themselves to be be strong during what has been a difficult time.

“That’s one thing we’ve always said about the citizens here in Beaufort County,” Newkirk said. “We just have a resilient citizenship. People tend to take care of themselves very well and take care of their neighbors very well, and it just shows in times like this.”