Hurricane victims still seek answers at community meeting
By ANNE C. BOWERS
Victims of Hurricane Irene filled the Rodanthe Community Center Monday
night, Jan. 30, for a disaster recovery meeting as many families and
businesses in the northern Hatteras Island villages struggle through
the rebuilding process.
Even five months after Hurricane Irene decimated several
north of Buxton, there are still people who have not started to rebuild
and others whose recovery efforts have stalled, caught in a quagmire of
red tape, paperwork, and misinformation.
The newly formed Dare County Long-Term Recovery Team brought together
several local experts and organizational heads at the Monday meeting to
answer questions from the islanders who are trying to put their lives
back together after the storm.
John Benson and Jodi Howard, two Hatteras Island residents
are case managers for the Long-Term Recovery Team, saw a mounting level
of irritation from people after months of fighting insurance companies
or adjusters or finding no money to fix or replace what Hurricane Irene
had taken from them.
To better serve the community and provide accurate
Benson and Howard felt a group meeting was necessary so more people
could be reached at once to hear about some new programs recently made
available to them.
Benson began the meeting by telling the attendees that they
there “to help people who have run out of options. We are
to help, to talk, whatever…”
Seven speakers covered pertinent topics regarding recovery programs
without microphone or notes and answered questions from the crowd.
The first speaker was Chuck Poe, who represented the Outer Banks
Community Development Program and had several options for mortgages in
distress, whether it was storm-related or not. He explained
there are grant programs to help catch payments for those who are
behind in their mortgage payments or loan modification programs to
lower interest rates.
Poe spoke of a brand new program available through the Federal Home
Loan Bank that would provide up to $15,000 to increase the energy
efficiency for the household by replacing old windows, heat pumps,
roofs, or even appliances. This money can also be available
make a house handicapped accessible by building ramps or widening
doorways for easier wheelchair access.
There are different programs available for people 62 and
and another one that would provide $45,000 to renovate your home any
way you please, which Poe referred to as a “soft second
Some loans were as low as 1 percent to be repaid over 20
years or issued as a grant, which doesn’t need to be repaid.
“The applications are not difficult,” Poe explained. “Grants
good as long as you live in your home 365 days a year and it is your
To handle insurance questions, Dan Thorn from National Flood Insurance
Program (NFIP), a division of FEMA, was on hand to clarify some rules
and facts about the Increased Cost Compliance (ICC), which has been a
problem for many homeowners and also for some Dare County officials.
Increased Cost Compliance refers to local building requirements to
reduce future flood damage before beginning to repair or
Up to $30,000 can be available through NFIP for all new and renewed
Standard Flood Insurance Policies to help pay the costs associated with
bringing homes into compliance. People can take up to four
to file a claim.
Craig Parker, representing the Methodist Men of Wanchese,
explained that he has organized volunteer groups to come in and help
the community rebuild.
“We will help you with anything you need help with,” Parker
said. “There are people in the area who haven’t even seen an
Parker further said that all the labor is completely free.
“Don’t feel like you have to house them or feed them,” he
said. “They are staying at the church, roughing it, sleeping
Speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Baptist Men, Billy
Layton offered free labor to anyone who needs help.
“Just provide the materials,” said
Layton. The group
is staying at the Salvo Fire Department and will be around through
Jodi Howard later said that the “Baptist Men have agreed to build five
houses as along as the materials are provided.
Donna Creef, Planning Director for Dare County, touched
on some insurance issues that she was seeing and reminded folks that
estimates need to come from North Carolina contractors only.
added that building permit fees had been waived for any construction
resulting from the hurricane.
Jenny Gray Jones from Dare County Grants and Waterways
new program that could provide a long-term answer for those needing a
solution to raising their homes.
“It takes 18 months before any grant is approved,” said Jones.
She explained that structure has to be good condition, must
year-round residence of the owner and is available to stick-built homes
only, no trailers.
Speaking to the emotional problems that some have faced, Ron
organized support groups every Tuesday in Frisco and Avon that began in
“I am willing to do one in Rodanthe, too,” offered
“If you are feeling overwhelmed, we can provide emotional help – even
if you just want to scream. The frustration following the
has been so thick that you could cut it with a knife.”
He also spoke of a mobile crisis unit that can be at your doorstep in
two hours, all at no cost.
The meeting was efficient and provided answers on a variety of issues
from the people in the know. There were no handouts or flyers
take home. All the speakers were available to talk one-on-one
with attendees directly following the meeting.
In spite of the dissatisfaction of many folks who attended
meeting, their questions were straight forward, nearly devoid of
emotion. They appeared worn and tired, ready for this ordeal
end. But, for many, the end is a long way down the road.
“They are beat down,” Creef said after the meeting.
“There are so many people frustrated with the ICC process,”
Howard. “Houses got flooded that were in compliance.”
The Dare County Long-Term Recovery Team will stay in place even after
the issues with Hurricane Irene have ended and will be able to quickly
support the community in case of any future national
The mission statement of the team is “To bring together
non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, government
agencies and corporate partners to effectively respond to the human
needs that result from disasters.”
Hurricane Irene recovery information from the Dare County Long-Term
Disaster Recovery Committee, a collaborative effort of government and
volunteer organizations is available on Facebook at
You do not have to be logged in or have a Facebook account to read this
page. Included are listings of general information about
On Hatteras Island, Jodi Howard and John Benson, case managers for the
Long-Term Recovery Committee, are still available at 475-9346 to
support people and help navigate through the recovery process. If you
or someone you know needs assistance, including coordinating volunteer
labor or supplies, please forward this information.
Chuck Poe of the Outer Banks Community Development Program can be
reached at 480-2507 for more information about mortgage programs.
For more information about support groups for islanders struggling with
emotional problems from the storm or meeting times, call Ron Lowe at