The Story: Rebuilding

You see, more people'll come by and say you're a flood victim. I don't like to use that term. I'm a flood survivor. You see the word that you use puts into your spirit what you are...It's going to take a while to get back to where we were, but I believe with God's help we can be back where we were and maybe a little bit better.

- Bert Pickett, Whitestocking, NC

FEMA bulldozers clear debris to begin construction

FEMA bulldozers clear debris to begin
construction. Photograph by Rob Amberg.

Where would you begin if you knew you had to rebuild your home from the bottom up? How would you begin to replace the belongings lost in the storm - everything from clothing, shoes, books, and furniture, to irreplaceable mementos like photos, yearbooks, and letters, to the many everyday items needed to run a household? In oral histories and interviews, many storm survivors recount the unforeseen expense of replacing things like dishes, cleaning supplies, scissors, salt, aspirin, light bulbs, soap, and the dozens of other items we use everyday. This was the task faced by families who lived in the 16,674 homes that were completely destroyed or declared uninhabitable.

Funding the rebuilding effort was the first priority of the state's leaders and the storm survivors. Only about 13% of affected homes had flood insurance. Governor Jim Hunt requested $5.3 billion from the federal government to help the state recover from Hurricane Floyd, but North Carolina only received $2.2 billion. $836 million was drawn from the state by canceling construction projects and cutting the budget. $19 million in donations were collected for the Hurricane Floyd Relief Fund. These numbers seem huge, but every dollar was badly needed to help eastern North Carolina recover from the storm, which the National Hurricane Center estimated caused $4.5 billion in damages, not including money from lost wages, lost retail sales, and uninsured property damage. Altogether, the damage was estimated to be $6 billion.

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