FEMA and Me

Post-flood reality

The flood picked everything up, then dropped it back down, in our garage. Total loss. 37" of water. *photo by author

It shocked me, just a moment ago, when I tried to tag my story about Hurricane Florence and our flood with “FEMA”. I researched the tag and no stories were found. You got that ? Not ONE story tagged FEMA for Hurricane Florence. This is Medium, yall, where are your tales? Hurricanes, disaster responses, no one posts about FEMA yet?

Here are my FEMA Stories. I live inland NC (USA) where Hurricane Florence hit. Just 45 miles from New Bern, NC, the city you see/saw on the news.

One: Hurricane Irene. 2011. Flooding in the garage, just a few inches but enough to take out the water heater. FEMA helped us pay for a new one. No hassle, they arrived within days of the storm. We have no flood insurance.

Two: Hurricane Florence. 2018. Registered with FEMA the day of the storm, just in case. Went to disasterassistance.gov — which is where you go to register. There’s an 800 number too. Got my number and my information filed, just in case.

Water did indeed come up under the house. The Jack’s Creek pumps failed around 3 a.m. the morning of Hurricane Florence. We lost the HVAC system and the duct work as well as three feet in the garage, which wiped out everything. Including the gas water heater. No we don’t have flood insurance. This house is over 100 years old and has never flooded. Not even during Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

I got a phone call last Thursday night around 9 pm. Less than a week from the storm’s landfall in Beaufort County. It was from a 910 number so I didn’t answer it because … I thought it was from my mother-in-law and talking to her was not on my to-do list for that evening. I checked the voice mail and low and behold, no M-i-L, it was “John from FEMA” wanting to set up an inspection appointment. Wow. I called back, he called back, I told him why I didn’t answer and I think it made his day.

He arrived noon Saturday, the storm was the Saturday previous. That’s a pretty damn quick response, if you ask me, as the rain didn’t officially stop until into that week. Hell, it’s still flooding south of me, Hurricane Florence is causing evacuations in South Carolina as I type. As yall’ve forgotten the storm and moved on to Supreme Court nominees and sexual assaults, the Voice’s latest season or whathaveyou, we’ve still got a hurricane, in a sense.

John arrived promptly at noon. Took a photo of house’s exterior. We went inside to sit at kitchen table while he questioned me about everything you would expect. I won’t go through it all here, it involved every room in house, what damage (none) and then we went outside where he documented the flood under the house, the saturated duct work, the HVAC, the water heater. Took about an hour. He loaded everything onto a tablet device. Then he left. He said I’d hear something in 9 days. He also said he could almost guarantee someone would come along behind him to check his work.

Duct work took a flood hit, all of it is wet. Under house is wet, but we’ve taken some boards off side of house to open it up to air flow.

John was from LA. He’d been out here for the flooding from Hurricane Matthew. We chatted about Lumberton, NC and other towns like Kinston, that flooded. These names get lost in the onslaught of more immediate, fresher news. But these towns just got hit again, two years later. They’d just begun to recover.

But for 30 miles, my town would have been a flooding statistic the likes of which New Bern, NC will be. Wilmington NC will be. The Neuse River got the water, not the Pamlico. We were spared.

But FEMA was here within a week. I don’t know if they’ll help us out for any of our losses. I’ll take whatever I can get. He did ask, “Will you be needing residential assistance while repairs are being done?”

And I asked him, “What do you reckon the best response to that would be?”

He replied, “That would be a ‘yes’.” Sounds promising? Being without heat will certainly suck. Being without hot water sucks right now. The shower is damn cold and we’re boiling water to wash dishes. But we didn’t flood in the house so I’m not complaining, just stating a few facts of life.

FEMA came. I’ll let yall know what FEMA does.

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Valerie MacEwan

The Dead Mule @deadmule writer, thinker, advocate for an ethical society, publisher www.deadmule.com online for 25 years.