For the second time in one year, the NC REALTORS® Housing Foundation was called into action to undertake a significant assistance effort after a natural disaster. More than double the amount set aside for previous mortgage and rental assistance efforts, the foundation’s Hurricane Florence effort has aided 830 North Carolinian families with more than $800,000 in direct relief aid. Since the disaster, we reached out to a number of our members and volunteers who were affected by the storm. These are their stories.
At 9 a.m. on September 10, 2018 after serving only six months as CEO of the Outer Banks Association of REALTORS®, Willo Kelly activated the association’s crisis management plan as reports of Hurricane Florence brought the path of the devastating hurricane over the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “There was an eerie quiet that settled over the staff as hurricane shutters were lowered, valuable items were stored, videos of the building were taken and a National Flood Insurance press release was issued to residents of the barrier islands.” Kelly continued, “We left in tears because we had no idea what would happen over the next few days—to our homes, our community and our office.”
Thankfully, the area was spared, “but suddenly tourists quit coming to the Outer Banks and completely abandoning their deposits because the nation thought we had been destroyed along with New Bern and Wilmington. Our property management companies reported noticeable losses during our ‘shoulder season’.”
Earlier in the summer, the Outer Banks had already been hit with record rainfall. Even though the area was spared the devastation that Hurricane Florence brought to many areas of North Carolina, the remnants of Hurricane Michael caused sound side flooding one month later. In spite of that, the Outer Banks Association of REALTORS® held a very successful blood drive in December in response to earlier drive cancellations caused by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. It was co-sponsored with a local church and was recognized as the No. 1 drive for donations in our region and second best nationwide. Immediately after the hurricanes, we had members drive to New Bern and Wilmington to gut houses and deliver canned goods. They really stepped up and made a difference.
Leah Holmes for Willo Kelly
Although I am thankful my home was not destroyed by Hurricane Florence, it was undoubtedly a close call. If the tree that fell on my house landed a couple of feet one way or the other, it would have likely been catastrophic. The huge limbs helped the blow from this multi-trunk water oak when the branches hit the ground. However, it still caused incredible destruction including three large holes and rafter damage that left the attic exposed to the rain for several days before I could safely access the property. Due to the sheer size of the tree, it took two crane trucks and $8,500 to remove it off the house. The water intrusion and subsequent damages generated an additional $50,000 in repairs. Although I was well insured, I learned several lessons. Because the tree hit the house and caused damage, the removal of the tree was insured, but other fallen trees and stump removal were not covered. The flooding in the basement was also not covered because I didn’t have flood insurance (not in a flood zone). Building costs and contractors, particularly reputable ones, are much more expensive than the insurance companies estimate. Therefore, I had to get multiple estimates and forward them to the adjuster, wait for them to review and constantly follow up which is not only frustrating, but incredibly time-consuming as well. Thankfully, my REALTOR® family assisted me with $1,500, which was a blessing when you are already out of pocket more than $12,000.
Cape Fear REALTORS®
My account of the recent Florence Hurricane was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before.
I remember how very quiet it was around here [in Southport, N.C.]. Like being in a ghost town. We were told to evacuate, [but] I could not afford to leave my home. Money was very tight, so I bunkered down in my closet. It was very frightening. I should not have stayed, but I didn’t know what else to do at the time.
Even though the damage to my home was minimal in comparison to others that were affected by the hurricane, I was without power for three days and without water for two days. I’m forever grateful for the assistance and the professionalism portrayed by Nicole Arnold and her staff at NC REALTORS®. What a blessing to have been a recipient of the disaster relief grant so I could pay one month’s mortgage.
I was fortunate that my area [Clayton N.C.] was not impacted by the hurricanes this fall. Personally, I have never experienced anything more than a short power outage and a small pine tree on the house. However, it’s nerve wracking to prepare for the unknown during these storms and such a relief once the storm passes and you’ve been spared.
I was happy to get the opportunity to do what I could to help the victims by volunteering with the NC REALTORS® Housing Foundation. Initially, I was assigned to call relief applicants and answer questions regarding the process. It was very sad to hear about the devastation they experienced. They sounded hopeful, but at the same time a little skeptical that we’d be able to help.
A few weeks later I was assigned to call dozens of relief applicants and let them know their checks for full mortgage payments were on the way. More than two months had passed between the storm and these calls, but every single person I spoke with was almost moved to tears because they were so thankful. I said to one lady “I’m sorry it took so long, but we’ve been working diligently through the long list. Hopefully you’re getting back to normal by now.” She said, “actually I’m still living in a hotel—the repairs haven’t even started on my home yet!” I know those relief checks made a huge impact on these people’s lives. What a truly humbling experience. I am so happy to have the opportunity to be a part of the relief efforts, even in such a small way.
In April of 2018, the Housing Foundation anticipated that the tornado would not be the foundation’s last natural disaster assistance program, but to have that prediction proven so quickly was something we weren’t expecting. However, it has reinstalled our appreciation for the volunteers that have spent countless hours helping people around them, and redoubled our dedication to the Housing Foundation’s vision: REALTORS® are the voice of community strength. When REALTORS® come together, housing victims can regain their hope and their home. NC REALTORS® should take pride in their public example of endurance and compassion in the face of nature’s wrath.
To learn more about disaster relief and the Housing Foundation, visit ncrealtorshf.org.
Thank you, volunteers