Contact: Julia Jarema
Date: August 24, 2012
Phone: (919) 825-2270

Recovering From Irene: One Year Later

RALEIGH – Though Irene was considered a Category 1 hurricane by the time she made landfall Aug. 27 near Cape Lookout, the storm caused more destruction in some eastern counties than many had seen in more than a decade. For several inner banks counties, not even Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state's costliest disaster on record, caused the five to 15 feet of storm surge that Hurricane Irene brought.

ldquo;Mistakenly, many may believe that the category 1 and 2 storms won't be as destructive so they let their guard down,” said N.C. Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell. “The truth is: the hurricane categories only refer to wind speed. And most of the destruction we've experienced from hurricanes is from storm surge and flooding.”

In the days and weeks after Irene struck, residents in over a third of the state worked to clean up debris, repair and rebuild their homes and businesses.

Staff from North Carolina Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked for months with the most heavily impacted communities to help residents find safe, sanitary temporary housing. Nearly 300 families initially stayed in nearby hotels or apartments for several weeks while they repaired their homes. For nearly 200 families in remote areas, FEMA brought in mobile homes so residents could remain near their jobs and home sites.  Additionally, FEMA-NCEM community outreach teams canvassed eastern North Carolina to identify and work with 1,700 of the most challenging cases helping them to complete financial aid applications, secure food stamps, even match them with volunteer agencies that could provide labor to help with home repairs. In the end, more than 17,500 families received $82 million in federal or state loans or grants to repair their homes, replace personal property and rebuild business.

One year later, most families have recovered from Irene and resumed their daily routines. But for some, the need continues.

"We still have about 350 families who need help,” said Hoell, “even after they received the maximum amounts of state and federal aid they could.” 

Hoell said three faith-based groups have continued to work with residents in Beaufort, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico and Pitt counties and the city of Washington. The N.C. Baptist Men, Harvest Connection, and N.C. Conference United Methodist Church have provided volunteer labor to repair damaged homes, but are relying on much-needed donations to help cover materials costs.

More than 320 local and state agencies and non-profit organizations also applied for financial assistance to recoup costs incurred to respond to and recover from Hurricane Irene. Already, nearly $110 million has been obligated to pay for debris cleanup, cover emergency response measures such as law enforcement and first responders, and repair public facilities. Through the federal cost-share Public Assistance program, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the expenses, while the state will incur the remaining share.

Though the official season is nearly halfway over, both Hoell and FEMA Region IV Administrator Phil May cautioned that September is historically when the most North Carolina experiences the most hurricane activity.

Hoell and May offered two bits of advice as the state readies for National Preparedness Month in September.

First, update emergency supplies kits and plans. Have enough non-perishable food, bottled water, medicines and other necessities to sustain your family for three to seven days. Discuss emergency contacts and meeting places in advance.

“Take these preparedness steps—be informed, make a plan, build a kit and get involved in your community,” echoed May. “Today could be the day before disaster strikes.”

Second, when severe weather threatens, heed instructions from local officials. If they tell you to evacuate, then evacuate.

“Emergency officials don't take evacuations lightly,” explained Hoell. “If they issue an evacuation order, it's best to heed their instructions to keep you and your family safe.”

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Hurricane Irene – By the Numbers

Storm Facts
Aug. 27, 2011    Irene made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Cape Lookout just before noon.

5-15 feet             Estimated storm surge that swept through Outer Banks and Inner Banks counties.

7             Deaths in North Carolina attributed to Irene

86           Total shelters that were opened in 41 total counties before, during and after the storm. More than 10,000 people sought refuge in a shelter at some point during the storm.

38           Counties declared for Individual Assistance to help individuals and families who received federal disaster funds

37           Counties declared for Public Assistance to help local governments and/or non-profit organizations receive federal disaster funds

Financial Help
$82M      Amount of federal/state grants or loans distributed to help repair or rebuild homes and businesses, replace personal property and pay for other disaster-related needs not covered by insurance ($35 M in state/federal grants; $47 in SBA loans)

17,500+  Number of households or businesses that received state/federal recovery financial assistance

35,000+  Number of requests via the FEMA hotline for information or assistance after Irene

Community Outreach Teams

Housing Assistance
27,800    Number of damaged homes and businesses that were inspected by FEMA and/or NCEM

 284         Families that were housed in nearby hotels or apartments for several weeks while their homes were repaired.

196         Temporary Housing Units were provided by FEMA as temporary shelter for 194 families as they rebuilt or repaired their homes. Most families had returned to their homes (or found other housing) by April. The last two families moved out of the THUs in mid-August.

Community Assistance
$110M    Public Assistance funds obligated. Through the federal cost-share program, FEMA pays 75 percent of the eligible costs; the state picks up the remaining share (in this case, $15.7 million). Projects include debris removal, emergency protective measures, facility repair, etc.

1,814      Number of Public Assistance projects for which funds have been obligated. 323 different agencies applied for funding assistance.

$63M      Reimbursement to counties for costs to remove debris and pay local and state agencies for emergency protective measures such as first responders and law enforcement.           

$47M      Reimbursement to counties for permanent work such as rebuilding/repairing public facilities such as roads, bridges, water treatment plants, sewer systems, power generation facilities, etc.


Hazard Mitigation
16        Properties in Pamlico County that will be acquired as part of the state's Hazard Mitigation Program. Homeowners applied for acquisition program. Properties will be returned to open land permanently and families will be relocated out of floodplain.

900      Properties that have been analyzed for potential hazard mitigation funding to either elevate homes above flood levels or acquire property to return it to open space.


To donate money to help Irene survivors, contact:

NC Conference United Methodist Church, Attn: Chrissy Powell
700 Waterfield Ridge Place, Garner, NC 27529

NC Baptist Men- Hurricane Irene, Attn: Gaylon Moss
PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512

Harvest Connection – Hurricane Irene,  Attn: Laura Monroe
Disaster Relief Ministry of Original Free Will Baptists
2600 W. Vernon Ave., Kinston, NC 28504