By Kay Whatley, Editor
When Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina the weekend of October 8-9, 2016, it caused immediate damage and began weeks of flooding that devastated lower lying towns.
Residents evacuated their homes. Many of those displaced ended up staying in shelters, or with family and friends, through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and far into the new year. In fact, residents of flooded towns including Princeville still haven’t returned to their homes.
Even before the floodwaters receded, a state of emergency was declared and emergency assistance / funding sought. While the majority of federal funding was declined, funds have been found to keep working through the long recovery effort — and to plan for the future. This week, the Governor’s office announced that grants were coming in to assist coastal communities.
For the coastal plains, months of work went in to bringing these needed funds to hard-hit communities. Recovery will be long, and financial resources will continue to be an issue for the state, towns and cities, and residents displaced by the hurricane and aftermath. Preparing for future storms and finding solutions can be done at the speed at which monies are allocated for them.
Seven coastal communities will receive grants to help them prepare for hurricanes, storms, and growth. The NC Division of Coastal Management uses a portion of its federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support local land-use planning and management projects in North Carolina’s 20 coastal counties.
Governor Roy Cooper said:
“These grants will help coastal North Carolina alleviate flooding after hurricanes and big storms, plan for future growth and improve water quality. Recovering from Hurricane Matthew has shown us just how critical it is for local communities to prepare proactively for future disasters, and this state and local partnership does just that.”
The grants awarded total $100,000:
- A $20,000 grant to Currituck County to study drainage basins to identify areas vulnerable to flooding.
- A $17,500 grant to Elizabeth City to create a plan to mitigate flooding in the area.
- A $17,500 grant to Carolina Shores to produce a flood mitigation manual to aid property owners in reducing flooding.
- A $15,000 grant to Caswell Beach for a stormwater drainage study to identify alternatives to alleviate flooding.
- A $15,000 grant to Hyde County to develop a watershed restoration plan to improve water quality in Lake Mattamuskeet.
- A $7,500 grant to Pender County to update its land use plan policies related natural hazard areas.
- A $7,500 grant to Swansboro to update its land use plan to include natural hazards and storm recovery efforts.
Grant recipients were selected based on criteria and priorities set by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission. This year’s funding prioritized natural hazard mitigation and storm recovery projects.
For more information about how to apply for funding, go to deq.nc.gov/…/coastal-management-land-use-planning/grants.
In Edgecombe County, flooding along the Tar River drowned low-lying Princeville. Even now, nine months later, some residents are out of their homes. According to Governor Cooper’s office, the state has continued “to push for North Carolina communities to get the help they need to rebuild from Hurricane Matthew while preparing for future floods.”
So far, the following assistance has been secured for the Princeville floodplain and adjacent Tarboro area:
- FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program has paid out: $3.6 Million to flood victims in Princeville, and $9.6 Million in Edgecombe County total (Princeville included). These funds assist flood victims with immediate needs after the storm.
- FEMA’s Public Assistance Program has obligated $1.15 Million for Princeville for critical public infrastructure repair and debris removal.
- The Small Business Administration has approved $1.5 Million in loans for Princeville, and $5.6 Million in loans for Edgecombe County (Princeville included).
- The National Flood Insurance Program has paid out in claims $6.3 Million in Princeville and $15.2 Million in Edgecombe County (Princeville included).
- Princeville has been selected as the highest-priority disaster area in the state for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Princeville will receive $13.5 Million for the HMGP program to buyout, elevate, or reconstruct flood damaged homes.
- The NC Disaster Relief Fund has awarded the NC Conference of the United Methodists $100,000 for home repair and rehab in Edgecombe County.
- Edgecombe County is one of the four hardest hit counties which, together, are designated to receive 80% of the $198.5 Million CDBG-DR allocation from the Housing and Urban Development agency.
According to Ford Porter, Governor’s Press Secretary:
“More help is on the way for these communities, including an in-depth 2D floodplain impacts study to help determine the best ways to lessen the impact of future flooding on Princeville.”
This floodplain impacts study is expected to be complete around November 2017, with up to $2 million available to fund the strategies identified by the study.
Ed. Note: With thanks to Ford Porter, NC Office of the Governor, for his assistance on this article.