Four months after Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas and Hurricane Michael tore north through Florida Panhandle and into Georgia, regional managers for World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) visited with local leaders to plan World Renew's long-term response to these major disasters. Their updates follow here:
Hurricane Michael, by Eric and Nancy Johnson, Regional Managers for World Renew DRS
We were in Georgia and Florida in January, about four months after Hurricane Michael, hit to get a sense of the progress of the recovery and to meet with local recovery organizations. We were shocked by the amount and extent of the home damage that we saw.
Most of the clean up is done, and the debris has been picked up in many areas that we surveyed near Albany. We saw contractors working on several homes, so it appears that residents with resources are starting to move forward in restoring their property.
World Renew DRS previously completed an Unmet Needs Assessment in Albany after a 2017 tornado. At the request of Albany Relief and Recovery (the long-term recovery group in Albany), DRS will again conduct an Unmet Needs Assessment in the Albany community in February 2019. The survey will help hurricane survivors, including the elderly, those who live with disabilities, and those who are without insurance, connect with the support they need to recover.
When we visited communities affected by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, we followed the storm’s path backwards from Albany, Georgia, into Panama City, Florida. Michael had made landfall in this area.
There was significant damage in many places as we headed south, but after we crossed Highway I-10 near the Florida border, there was damage in every community. As we got closer to Panama City, every neighborhood looked like it had been hit by a tornado. In 15-plus years of disaster response work, we had never seen such widespread wind damage.
We did not go south of Panama City center, but we expected that conditions there were as bad or worse than the damage we witnessed. (Mexico Beach, the hardest hit location, is in that area.)
We received early assessment data that indicates that at least 1,800 homes in Bay County were destroyed, and 6,500 houses had major damage, meaning that they are unlivable unless they receive major repairs.
Cleanup is continuing in this area and some roof repairs have begun. Debris pickup by the county is expected to continue through February. Long-term recovery groups are beginning to form in counties hit by the hurricane, and they have a long road ahead of them. World Renew DRS is here to lend support and services.
Header photo: Damage from Hurricane Michael is still evident throughout the Florida Panhandle
Hurricane Florence, by Ben Dykstra, Regional Manager for World Renew DRS
Hurricane Florence was a unique storm. It made landfall, swung south, and then circled back to the areas it had already hit. The town of New Bern, in eastern North Carolina, and several surrounding counties received more than 12 hours of sustained, hurricane-force winds during the storm.
Many areas had heavy wind damage, and water backed up from the Atlantic Ocean into local rivers. When this flooding met rain runoff from the storm as it circled around and headed back to sea, areas that would normally remain dry in bad weather flooded as well. By the time Florence blew out, half the counties in North Carolina were in a state of emergency due to flooding.
As we drove through the waterlogged neighborhoods, we came across homes with heavy roof damage and then found pockets near a river where homes were flooded up to 7-feet high inside.
There were boats in fields and swamp areas. Three homes in Pamlico County were totally gone with no trace of the structures or the belongings that were in them. In Dawson's Creek, two homes were hit by large rocks that had been piled up as a breakwater. The rocks were catapulted through the homes by the waves and wind. One of the homes was completely destroyed, and in the other home you can see through the interior walls and out to the backyard.
FEMA reported that more than 800 families were in need of temporary housing, with 400 still displaced. Many people are living in camper trailers supplied by FEMA or borrowed from friends and family. There are piles of debris scattered around the area and a shortage of contractors to do repair and reconstruction work.
Hurricane survivors who did not receive housing from FEMA are living with relatives and neighbors. Some people would not accept help and moved right back into their mold-filled home as soon as the flooding receded.
World Renew DRS and other organizations are sending short-term volunteer teams to help with reconstruction, but there is more work than there are volunteers. Volunteers will be need for a long time in eastern North Carolina.
The local volunteers I met are a resilient and dedicated group. Many are part of organized efforts to help survivors who might otherwise go unnoticed. Some volunteers had damage to their own homes, but they were working on getting help for their neighbors. It is these local organizations, dedicated to their community’s recovery, that World Renew DRS works and partners with.
World Renew’s Response: The Next Six Months
DRS Director, Bob Laarman, shares plans for the next six months of response activities for Hurricanes Florence and Michael below: –
“Unmet Needs Assessments are planned for Georgia and Florida. These build on the activities already completed in Florida. This effort will continue to supply local recovery organizations with updated and thorough information for their case managers to prioritize the next steps needed in the recovery. It is likely that DRS will do other needs assessments here as well. This support for local organizations has been in demand in responding to disasters.
“National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) has asked DRS to pursue reconstruction work in northern Florida, given the extensive damage there from Hurricane Michael. This request is being considered as a long-term reconstruction site and for placement of one-week work groups. As always, DRS works in conjunction with local recovery organizations that lead the rebuilding process in their own communities. Volunteer Regional Managers as well as staff from office headquarters are visiting affected areas and meeting with emerging organizations in order to find quality work partners.”
Your donations to Hurricanes Florence and Michael are making an impact now and will continue to change lives for months and years to come, as recovery from these major disasters is a long-term commitment for World Renew DRS.
Thank you for making this ministry possible through your financial gifts, volunteering, prayers, and involvement.
To contribute to DRS hurricane response, click here
To find a volunteer opportunity, visit worldrenew.net/volunteer