On September 26, 2018 the United States House of Representatives passed a bill to allocate $1.7 billion towards natural disaster aid for North and South Carolina. The Representatives who voted in favor of the bill viewed it as a “down payment” for rebuilding communities affected by Hurricane Florence. The historic hurricane made landfall on September 13, 2018 and stayed over the Carolinas for four days. It is estimated that “billions more will be needed” to rebuild the coastal areas devastated by Florence. The origin of these “billions” is uncertain due to the slow moving passage of the bill through Congress. Local lawmakers from North and South Carolina submitted requests for immediate relief funding to House Speaker, Paul Ryan, and Minority House Leader, Nancy Pelosi.
The bill, which still needs Senate approval, includes several other provisions for funding the Federal Aviation Administration, a FBI and Homeland Security stipulation on drones, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA’s inclusion in the bill, directs the agency to spend more funding on damage prevention from natural disasters. The preventative measures include levee rebuilding and the construction of seawalls against hurricane impact. Because of these various provisions, this bill will only provide an incredibly small amount of relief to those affected by Hurricane Florence.
Currently, North and South Carolina are still experiencing high flood waters and the damages associated. At least sixteen major rivers are still flooded two weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated the area with its Category 1 Hurricane force winds and its 18 trillion gallons of water that fell from the storm. It is estimated that anywhere between $17-22 billion will be needed for repairing roads, schools, farms, businesses, homes, and other public structures. Over 300,000 people are without power still because of flooding and the isolation it caused to certain areas. The affected areas experienced a similarly devastating storm with Hurricane Matthew only two years prior and did not receive sufficient relief funding from the government. The coastal Carolina areas are uncertain whether the government will provide more funding soon.
Hurricane Florence particularly affected schools due to major flooding and wind damage. At least two elementary schools in the coastal North Carolina area are closed indefinitely due to three feet of flooding in parts of the school. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is not allowing students back onto campus until October 6, 2018. This delay is due to flooding and significant wind damage to classroom and dorm buildings on campus.
The surrounding areas face continued power outages, significant beach erosion, mold, and mildew. Officials in the affected areas indicate that the damage will persist long after Florence. More than 47 people have died from the Hurricane and its aftermath. Flooding has affected more than 2,000 roads and subsequently rescue and relief efforts have been made by the Red Cross, US Military, and local aid. Hurricane Florence will require more relief funding from the government than what is currently before the Senate for impending approval. The devastation to the already economically stressed area has caused a significant blow to residents’ ability to rebuild their lives. As Hurricane Season is still underway in the Carolinas, there is real concern for future storm landfall in the next few months.