Now that Bladen County has entered the recovery and rebuilding phases forareas affected by Hurricane Matthew, emergency personnel are still busy, now evaluating how the disaster was handled at the local level.
“There were so many people involved,” said Bladen County Emergency Services Director Bradley Kinlaw. “Each department right now is looking at and evaluating what we can do next time. We’re all having meetings at the ground level now, and in a couple of weeks, all the department heads will get together to talk about how we did.”
One of the things Kinlaw said he and his department are looking into is grant money that would help folks who live in flood-prone areas by, for example, lifting their homes up off the ground. Kinlaw stressed that he will not have an anwer for several weeks and will share the information when it becomes available.
The major concern for emergency management folks now, he said, is making sure everyone who needs assistance registers with FEMA and contacts their insurance companies. FEMA does not replicate insurance money, and funds provided through that source will be exhausted first. Kinlaw doesn’t know, however, if everyone has the message yet.
“We can see the number of people who have applied with FEMA,” he said, “but that doesn’t tell us how many people were affected. I don’t know if that’s everybody or not. A big thing right now is making sure folks are reaching out to their neighbors, especially the elderly, and making sure they’ve reached out to get assistance with insurance or FEMA or both.”
That reaching out is made harder by the road conditions around the county. Kinlaw noted one instance in which a fire truck and an EMS vehicle responded to a call and showed up on opposite sides of a washed-out bridge.
“The road conditions are still certainly delaying our response, and it’s still going to be several months,” Kinlaw noted.
Taylor Manufacturing’s Ron Taylor noted his desire for a timely fix.
“Like many other areas, this storm and the washed-out Hwy. 701 bridge south of Elizabethtown have been a major setback and expense for our business,” Taylor said. “Not only transportation issues, but our local ice business, Taylor Manufacturing, D’Vine Foods and Cindy’s Restaurant have all been severely damaged.
“I know there are numerous needs because of the storm, but my major concern has been that I could not find anyone that could tell me the schedule for repairing this particular road closure,” he added. “Also, I’m worried about the damage to our parking lot that we let the public and big trucks turn around in because they did not read the signs that said ‘road closed ahead’.”
Kinlaw said he expected U.S. 701 to open very soon.
Recently, when Gov. McCrory visited Bladen County, he talked about his desire to see the Hurricane Matthew Task Force do something to help small businesses, and FEMA representatives continue to encourage businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew in any way to apply for loans with the SBA.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.