HURRICANE FLORENCE: Leland starts picking up the pieces

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Officials warn that storm recovery will be a long process

LELAND — Entire neighborhoods decimated. Residents without homes or basic supplies. Washed out roads that limit accessibility. It’s a scene being played out in many North Carolina towns but one that Leland hasn’t experienced before.

Nevertheless, the town is doing its best to meet residents’ needs for both short- and long-term recovery from Florence’s ravages.

“We’ve made a good start but have a long way to go,” said Leland Town Manager David Hollis.

The town’s first priority is finding housing for its 200 or so residents whose homes were destroyed by flooding or tree damage. While some displaced folks are staying with relatives or friends, others need a place to lay their heads, Hollis said. Next is finding long-term housing, such as rental properties, for them to live in, he adds.

Leland, and other Brunswick County residents, are also getting help from Brunswick Family Assistance, which set up distribution sites at Belville’s Town Hall, Bell Custom Homes, and Town Creek Baptist Church, as well as coordinated other relief efforts for affected citizens.

Brunswick Family Assistance has provided needed supplies, including food, water, toiletries, paper products, diapers, trash bags, and tarps, to roughly 2,500 people from Leland and Northern Brunswick County alone, said Stephanie Bowen, the organization’s executive director.

“We’ve had a lot of people come through who were heavily affected by flooding and have lost everything,” she said.

The need for assistance is likely to remain for quite some time, especially for those from Stoney Creek and Planters Walk, Leland neighborhoods that were decimated by flooding. As an example, one Stoney Creek resident told Bowen it will be six to eight months before his home will be livable again.

To meet the long-term recovery needs of residents who incurred damage from Florence, Leland officials are working with all local, county, state, federal, and nonprofit agencies and the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program to gain additional assistance for them, Hollis said.

On other fronts, things are getting back to normal. Most of Leland’s roads are accessible. That’s due in part to the city of Goldsboro, which sent a team to help clean up the town’s park. That assistance freed Leland’s crews to focus on clearing its roads, according to Hollis.

Also, though many of Leland’s businesses sustained some damage from the storm, they’re now up and running, he added.

And, Leland has reopened Town Hall. Though the building suffered only minimal damage, the government has been closed while Leland got its employees back together and up-to-speed. Also, because the building housed the Missouri Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue Team for 10 days, it needed a bit of tidying. Providing housing for Missouri Task Force One, however, is something Hollis said the town was more than glad to do.

“The men and women of Missouri Task Force One rescued 20 who were in imminent danger and evacuated 300 people from rising water,” Hollis said. “They did a tremendous job and a great service. We’ll be forever in debt to them.”

Leland officials say that while progress is being made, full recovery from Florence is going to be a long haul.

“We’ve gotten past the first hurdle, but it’s a long race to run,” Hollis said.

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