Michelle Gagnon embraces her boyfriend Robert Goodhart outside the couple's flood-damaged home on Riverview Drive in Vass after Tropical Storm Florence. (Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot)

As Moore County was bracing for possible impacts from Dorian this week, the Board of Commissioners was being updated on the acquisition of homes destroyed or heavily damaged by two previous hurricanes.

Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips appeared before the board Tuesday morning to report on efforts following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Florence in September 2018.

“When we put this on the agenda, we had no idea we would be facing another storm,” Vice Chairwoman Catherine Graham said.

Like the very hurricanes themselves, things move slowly.

Phillips informed the board that the county is closing in on the purchase of seven properties in River Bend and Riverview areas where the home was left uninhabitable or damaged beyond repair as a result of Hurricane Matthew. Nearly two years after the storm, Phillips said the county received approval for $660,537 in funding from FEMA and state Emergency Management to acquire six properties and $115,000 to repair one home. He said that one homeowner later opted for acquisition after Hurricane Florence struck.

Phillips said the county hired a project management company in December and that an initial meeting was held with affected property owners in January.

He said the appraisals and title searches have been completed and vendor has been selected to survey the properties. All of that must be done before an offer can be made on a purchase price.

“Once that is done, hopefully the homeowner will take the appraisal price that is offered,” Phillips told the board. “We are moving along with that process.”

Gov Cooper Vass 02.jpg

Governor Roy Cooper visited Moore County to survey storm-ravaged Vass and the visited the Riverview Drive neighborhood with with Crains Creek Fire Department Chief Kenneth Mackey (right). Rep Jamie Boles is at left. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

If the homeowner does not agree with the price, the person can have their own appraisal done, Phillips said. If there is still no agreement, the county would have a third appraisal done.

Once the county acquires the property, Phillips said it will have 90 days to demolish the homes and any other structures. Those properties would remain vacant and cannot be built on in the future.

He told the commissioners that the process of acquiring the properties must be completed by July 12, 2020.

Matthew dumped 10 inches of rain on the county and nearly caused a dam breach at Woodlake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 100 homes below the troubled structure.

As for Florence, the county is early in the process for 13 properties that opted for the “expedited process” to be acquired by the county, Phillips reported. He said the county received notification Aug. 19 that FEMA and the state had approved $945,325 in funding.

Flooding Before and After

TOP: A submerged home on Riverview Drive during Tropical Storm Florence. (Courtesy Photograph) BOTTOM: View of the house on Monday. (Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot)

He added that another 15 affected properties chose to go through the normal acquisition process, which is even slower.

Phillips said the county attorney’s office is working on a memorandum of understanding, which the commissioners must approve, before the process begins.

“We’re continuing to work with finance and legal to make these communities whole again,” he said.

Florence, which was a tropical storm by the time it reached Moore County, was far more destructive than Matthew.

For three days that September, heavy wind and rain pounded Moore County after devastating parts of the N.C. coast. It dumped more than 16 inches of rain on the area and left more than 28,300 homes without power, some for several days.

Addressing a small group of dignitaries and public safety officials in Vass in the days after the storm, Gov. Roy Cooper described Florence as the most devastating natural disaster to hit North Carolina in recent memory.

The road to recovery has been long for Vass and areas surrounding it, where Florence caused extensive flooding in neighborhoods still dealing with the destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

More than 30 families, mainly in the Riverview Drive area in eastern Moore, were displaced by the storm, which left a trail of uninhabitable homes in its wake.

Nearly two years ago, part of the neighborhood was left underwater by Matthew’s rain. The flooding from Florence undid many of the costly home repairs that followed Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

(1) comment

Kent Misegades

Why are taxpayers buying flood-damaged properties? If I own property in flood-prone areas, I bear the risk of property loss, not my neighbors on higher ground.

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