Carteret County was hit hard by Florence. Hurricane force winds knocked down power lines, toppled trees over on houses and blew the roofs and awnings off buildings. Now, nearly a week after the storm, thousands of residents are still without power.
85 year-old Emma Rose Guthrie is sitting with her family on the front porch of her home on Harkers Island. The roof of her house is covered with tarps, her windows are still boarded up. From the outside, her home looks like it made it through the hurricane unscathed. But when she invites me inside, I see several gaping holes where the ceiling has collapsed.
“See, that whole thing just caved in there. That was a family heirloom, my sister had left me that years ago and now that’s destroyed.”
Insulation hangs from the now exposed beams in the attic and the carpet is soaked.
““Watch this floor, it’s started buckling already. This is my bathroom, one of them. And as you can see, it’s a disaster.”
Guthrie has lived on Harker’s Island her entire life. This is the third time she’s lost a home because of a hurricane.
“This is the worst one I’ve ever seen, in my 85 years, this has been the big daddy of them all.”
Guthrie was able to save a few personal items and a few outfits. But most of her possessions were ruined. Since she lost her husband seven years ago, Guthrie has been living on social security, so she doesn’t have flood insurance.
“I’m staying with my other daughter and her house is in just as bad of shape as this is. We’re about to smother to death in there. Her door is broke in, carpets is nothing but water, and I’m sleeping on a couch now in her house. And we was talking about it a while ago, we’re going to have to go somewhere and find a place to stay ‘cause we ain’t got nowhere to stay.”
Some of her neighbors also lost their homes during Florence. Her church of 66 years, which is across the street, had significant roof damage and won’t be able to have services for a while.
Powerful winds in excess of 80 mph caused widespread damage in places like Morehead City and Beaufort. Farther inland, storm surge and heavy rainfall caused water from the Mill Creek River and Newport River to rise to historic levels.
“My dad was here during Hazel, and it wasn’t this bad during Hazel.”
Patrick Garner, was helping his parents salvage items from their home on Mill Creek Road in Newport Wednesday afternoon.
“We lost seven vehicles. It’s just terrible. The water came up and we all thought it would go down and it just kept coming.”
Water started coming into Robert and Maureen Garner’s home on Friday night, right in the middle of the hurricane. It knocked over a generator in the garage filling the house with gas fumes. Maureen says her family of seven adults, a baby and a dog had to go upstairs and open the windows so they could breathe. Around 10 o’clock that night, they all had to be rescued.
“The Atlantic Beach Rescue Squad came down with a big boat and rescued all of us and got us to safety, took us to the shelter. So we just didn’t think it would ever get this high.”
Her husband built the home in 1945 and they have lived in it together for 30 years now. Maureen says this is the first time water has come inside.
“So this how high the water came up, so that’s like a foot and a half?” “This house is 11 feet, I know it’s more than 11 feet above sea level. Robert built this house five blocks and a cap. So, we thought we were never in danger, but we were wrong.”
There were over 400 swift water rescues in Carteret County during Florence. Those who lost their homes are staying with friends, family or at shelters at Newport Middle School and Beaufort Elementary School. As of Wednesday, around 400 people are at the shelters. Director of Carteret County Emergency Services Stephen Rae says they don’t know exactly how many homes and businesses were affected by the storm.
“So right now we have assessment teams out looking for damages to homes, damages to property, damage to our public buildings, and they’re all over the county.”
Rae says the county is collecting donations of non-perishable items, water, baby products, pet food, tarps and house cleaning products. Carteret County has set up a dozen food and water distribution sites where residents can pick up items to help with recovery.