Friday, March 3, 2017

Hurricane Matthew - the aftermath

In North Carolina, hurricane season runs from September to November and as a native. I'm used to preparing, batting down the hatches, taking cover, going without electricity and eating sandwiches for any where from a few hours to a few days. However this year was different.
Hurricane Matthew blew in and from minute to minute we didn't know if it would be a direct hit or if he would turn and go out to sea.
2 days after the storm, the river was slowly making it's way to our home's...
10 days after the storm, my neighbors home. Mine was behind his. The water was continuing to creep up. This photo was taken from a john boat by his daughter.
The river was moving too quickly to get close, again, taken by L from a boat.

**In this photo, zoomed in, you can see the mold on the outside growing and the back stoop is sagging. The trailer had been under water for over 2 weeks at this point.

Late on Friday night the wind blew, the rain fell, the limbs broke free from the trees, the windows shook and I didn't sleep. I laid in bed waiting for the first signs of day light so I could assess the damage. Much to my joy, there was little damage, a few puddles and still high winds. Whew! It must have missed us. Now our power had gone out around 10 p.m. and was still out. Okay I knew it would, living out in the country our lines are on poles not underground like in town and we "country folk" always lose power due to down tree limbs.

Saturday came and went. Sunday came and still no power, not even in town. So no hot water for a shower, no way of cooking and I was getting bored. That afternoon a county worker knocked on the door. He told me I was under emergency evacuation and needed to leave within the next 12-24 hours. My best bet would be if I left within 12.
?? WHAT??

He then explained to me what was coming. The damn was flooding, the levy had a crack and the river was expected to crest at 29.9 feet ABOVE flood stage! Jumping Jehoshaphat Man! I needed to pack and get out. Now. Do not tarry. IF you wait he said, it could be 2 weeks or more before we could get to you to get you out. I had visions of people on the news sitting on their roofs being rescued by helicopters. Oh no, I refused for that to be me. 

I asked him several questions and then he said if you have any more, please call the number, I have a lot of folks to get to this afternoon. Time is of the essence. 

I stood looking around my living room in shock. What to pack? What would I lose? What if it was everything? How much could I fit in my car? Wait, where would I go?

I called my daughter-in-law and asked if I could use her cat carrier. My kitty was going with me if everything else perished. I grabbed all medications, an overnight bag and began stuffing clothes in it. I then looked around, I began to take things out of the closet, off the floors and out of the cabinets. I placed these items up as high as I could. On top of the counters, the freezer top, on top of the fridge. My thought process was that IF water got in the house, maybe, just maybe these things could be safe. Then I set to packing again. I filled my car. I also called my mom. Told her what was going on. I hated doing it, we love each other but our living together had previously proven not a good idea. But we both thought well it would only be for a few days. Little did we know...

Each day for 72 hours I would leave work, go by my house and see that the water was coming closer to the house each day. On the fourth day I could no longer get down the road. On day 6 I could not get to my road. On day 10 I could not get within 8 miles of my home. Each night I would sit on the couch at my moms and watch the local weather man, in a boat, riding down my road also watching the water rise higher and higher.

During this time, I would go and check the river level and see more and more of my neighbors moving out. Lock, stock and barrel, leaving behind only the home. I so wished I had the funds to load up all my belongings, but I got out what I could and prayed for the best.

My neighbors daughter was swimming in our road and taking photos, posting them on Facebook and tagging me. I was grateful to see but heart broken at the same time.
Finally after 3 weeks I was able to reach my home. I remember pulling in the road, the putrid smell, the river sludge and trash everywhere. It was all so surreal.

I unlocked the door and walked in. Cough, gag, eww the smell. I looked down and there on the floor was a crab! A CRAB IN my house! oh gosh. The feeling was so overwhelmingly devastating I really can't put words to it even now at 2 1/2  to 3 months later. The FEMA adjuster was with me. He looked around and said you're fine no damage and was gone. 

Did you forget the photos I sent you? Showing my home under 3-4 feet of water for 3 weeks?!?! Do you not see the water line in the house? The crab? The tree frog in the middle of the kitchen? The raw sewage in the tub? the mold and mildew growing up the walls? No damage??? WTH man

Standing in the living room looking around again, Thinking back 3 weeks before when trying to decide where to start. What to pack and now here again the decisions faced me were where to start cleaning, what to salvage. Donning a mask, gloves and trash bags I began setting about tossing items that were obviously beyond saving and tossing outside the rugs, furniture, trash and what-knots that needed hauling away.

The house was a total loss, my landlord insisted that it was fine but it was not. The floor was soft, mold and mildew were growing at an alarming rate, the heat and air unit had been under water for 3 weeks, the duct work was shot but he insisted it was fine. I insisted on finding a new place to live, and somewhere closer to work.
I found a new, nicer, larger home that was within a mile of my work instead of 30! More expensive yes, but so worth it.

**I contacted my insurance company and gave them an update. I was told to send them photos, a list of damaged items and they would process my claim immediately. They were incredible. It did take over a month but they were in constant contact with me, asking for information they needed, telling me what to do, where to go, who to call. I am so thankful that I had and still have renters insurance. Now because I had insurance FEMA nor my local county agencies would help me. NO help, none, nada, nothing. BUT I had insurance and my mom, so with that I am blessed and so thankful. There were many of my neighbors who had nothing, lost everything and are STILL without somewhere to live.

Without my insurance company I have no idea how long it would have been before I could have afforded to move but thanks to their efforts, assistance and timely settlement I was in my new home with six weeks of being displaced.

I love it. I am still close to the water, but not too close. Being closer to work is a blessing as well in more ways than one. I still have not been able to replace everything I lost but I have what I need. My most precious possessions were saved, my family photos and my kitty. My children are grown and gone for some time now and having those photos safe means the word to me.

Having grown up in the South I have seen more hurricanes, floods and disaster than I care to count but living through it, that is something else. I still can not express all the feelings experienced during this time.

To those who lost their lives, everything they owned I feel guilty for any grumblings and complaints I made. To the emergency workers, electrical linemen, volunteers and local staff...I am grateful. Clothes and furniture can be replaced lives can not.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a scary journey. To see the water rising like that... nature's fury is pretty amazing. I'm so thankful that you had a good insurance company who worked to help you into your new place. So many go through ordeals like these with no insurance. It is hard enough to lose sentimental belongings, but being anxious about having enough money to resettle only makes everything much worse!