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Looking Back A Year After Hurricane Matthew

Friday 06 October 2017 at 9:50 pm.

“We’re still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.”

This sentiment has been echoed quite a bit in the last year.

It’s a phrase that was heard all across the island after the summer power outage, after the menacing approach of Jose and Maria, and after just about every island-wide setback we’ve encountered since last October.

And it’s 100% accurate. Matthew may have eventually arrived in our area on October 9, 2016, as a post tropical cyclone, but the former Category 5 storm left a lot of local damage in its wake.

Record breaking storm surge levels were recorded in Hatteras village with 5.8 feet of water in some areas. A number of lifelong locals reported that the last time they saw water levels remotely close to Matthew was in 1944. And officials estimated that the storm caused $52 million in damages to Dare County alone.

At least 60-70 homes were flooded in Hatteras Village and had to be renovated or demolished. And with local contractors in high demand - and a long wait to acquire funds from insurance companies, grants, loans, personal savings, and any source that was available – rebuilding was a slow process.

So it’s no wonder that nearly a year after Matthew paid Hatteras Island a brief visit that locals and visitors are still getting back on their feet. Take a drive through Hatteras village, and you’ll still see Matthew-related repairs in progress as homes continue to be raised, renovated, or torn down completely.

Ashley Jackson, a social worker on Hatteras Island with the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, verifies that problems after Matthew still linger.

We interviewed Ashley after the storm in 2016 when she was working tirelessly to help Hatteras Island families in need, even while her own home was inundated with water. Her efforts earned her the Dare County Employee of the Year award in 2016, as she connected hundreds of people with resources to rebuild and recover months after Matthew.

Ashley is a prime example of how hard Matthew hit a number of families.

She finally moved back to her home in July 2017, after 10 months of being displaced and sharing a room in her in-laws’ house with her husband and children.

“With me working on storm recovery, and my husband working as well, we were late to the game to find a contractor,” she says. “A lot of local contractors we knew who did great work already had jobs lined up by the time we were ready to move forward.”

As a result, Ashley hired a contractor from out of the area and had multiple problems and delays before switching gears and enlisting a local contractor to finish the job.

Their family is finally back home, after months of headaches and unexpected expenses, but it’s been a long road to get there.

“We’re mostly done now. We have more some personal stuff we’d like to do - like get the house painted and adding furnishings - but in terms of the actual inside, the construction is finally complete,” she says.

“Everyone had to compromise in this situation,” she says when asked about being displaced for months at a time. “We made it work, but by the time we hit the summer, we said ‘let’s do this – let’s go home.’”

Her story is a common one.

And while she was addressing her own home, Ashley tackled the cases of several hundred people who were also going through similar situations after Matthew.

Today, the list of people who need help is much shorter, but it’s still an issue.

“We have very few [Matthew cases] left that we are working on,” says Ashley. “There are a couple that are finally at the stage where they are getting their plans developed, or getting their modular homes brought in. But we went from roughly 200 families to three to five families.”

And Ashley says that the majority of help and support for the people in need came from local organizations, including and especially the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men.

“The Methodist Men have done a wonderful job planning and helping people to get their needs met,” she says. “The Methodist Men came through and granted everyone’s wish and need. It was a huge help and a wonderful resource that other areas don’t have - Giving thousands of dollars to families is pretty amazing.”

Ashley says that in addition to roughly $150,000 in monetary donations, local organizations and individuals stepped up to the plate to provide a wide array of ways to help.

Local laborers donated time to fix and repair homes that had been damaged. A storage unit was set up with furniture so that people could pick up sofas, kitchen tables, and other household items. The Hatteras Island CERT team spent countless long days addressing immediate needs. The Hatteras Island Quilt Guild donated handmade quilts to families for comfort. Realty companies donated accommodations after Matthew, while second homeowners would give away furnishings from their own properties.

The list of organizations and people who helped months after Matthew truly does go on, and on, and on.

When looking back at all the articles, blog entries, updates, and photos that we posted after Hurricane Matthew last year, there was one passage in particular that really stuck out.

It was in a story about recovery efforts that was posted just one day after Matthew on October 10, and it was written by Irene.

She starts the article with the following:

“One thing we have learned storm after storm on Hatteras Island is that when "the going gets tough, the tough get going."

We sure learned about it in Hatteras village after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 -- a storm that flattened the northern end of the village, heavily damaged the rest of it, and cut a new inlet between the village and Frisco.

Now, we're seeing the tough get going in Hatteras village again.”

Heaven knows she is still right about that.

Today, if you go down to Hatteras village and check out local landmarks like Oden’s Dock, Sonny’s Restaurant, or the Quarterdeck in Frisco, you might not automatically realize that just a year ago these areas were underwater. Hatteras Island rebuilt, as it always does, and came back to life to cater to the summertime visitor population.

But like all major storms, memories and reminders still linger. Matthew water marks are etched into the side of buildings or homes, and residences are still balanced on new pilings as locals continue to rebuild.

For Ashley, (and for many other locals), the memory of Matthew isn’t as razor sharp as it was a year ago, but it’s still there.

Ashley was recently featured on a WAVY 10 special news report on Matthew, and she added the photos and articles of the coverage to a book she is keeping of her memories of Matthew.

“When all this is behind us, I can look at the photo book and remember,” she says. “I look at it now and I almost forgot that the water got so high.”

“Even when you see videos from right after Matthew, you’re like ‘oh wow –that’s really what it looked like…’ You move on and forget, but there are always reminders.”

One comment

Salvo Jimmy

And always keep in mind that it does not have to be a named storm.

The highest sound flooding at my place in Salvo, prior to Irene, was a Mar ‘93 Nor’Easter and the 3rd highest was a Feb ‘76 Nor’Easter.

Gloria in ‘85 was slightly less than Mar ‘93 and all other named storms from ‘71, other than Irene, were less than Feb ‘76.

BTW never experienced any ocean flooding at my place, always the sound.

Salvo Jimmy - 07-10-’17 16:35




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