Road To Recovery Remains Long For Cities Hardest Hit By Hurricane Matthew

Almost five months after Hurricane Matthew struck Eastern North Carolina, leaving 26 people dead and an estimated $1.6 billion in property damage, part of the long-term recovery has just gotten under way.

But local officials are hoping that a federal program that buys flood damaged homes doesn’t destroy established neighborhoods or strain municipal budgets.

The program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency allows owners of flood damaged homes three options, all aimed at ensuring that a house in a vulnerable place doesn’t have to be repaired again after another big storm. 

Owners may have the choice of rebuilding their home on the same site, raising it higher to avoid floods, or accepting a buyout, in which FEMA acquires the house and demolishes it, leaving an unbuildable vacant lot behind.

FEMA pays, but local officials decide which of the three allowable options will be offered to residents of each neighborhood.

“Although all three of those are potential opportunities for homeowners, I would say in Lumberton we’re going to be very targeted on where buyout is an option,” said Brandon Love, the planning director and floodplain administrator for the city.

In Lumberton – one of the cities hardest hit by Matthew, officials have received more than 150 preliminary applications so far for the FEMA hazard mitigation…

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