The second anniversary of Hurricane Matthew brings uncertainty to Fair Bluff

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— After experiencing the historic flooding of Hurricane Florence, the second anniversary of Hurricane Matthew’s landfall in North Carolina brings about feelings of uncertainty for the residents of Fair Bluff.

The Lumber River is a scenic selling point for the little town of Fair Bluff, but high water has wrung this town dry. Floodwaters have overwhelmed the town during both Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence.

“Fair Bluff didn’t have much, but Matthew and Florence took that away from us,” said resident Ray Lundy.

Lundy’s daughter previously owned a pharmacy on Main Street, but it was moved to another town after Hurricane Matthew.

“All of these people who were in business here, they cannot recover,” Lundy said.

The town has seen many businesses remain lifeless after the storms were long gone. The town’s visitors center, a photography studio and a hardware store have all ceased operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence. Main Street is bounded by boarded-up windows and hollow buildings.

“Sometimes, enough is enough,” Town Commissioner Randy Britt said.

Britt is attempting to recover his own place of business after Hurricane Florence, which created more flooding than Hurricane Matthew. He wonders whether the town should just move the business district to higher ground.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s foolish to come back in here and do all this work when you have a biblical flood, like I call it, that happens twice in 23 months,” Britt said.

As a result of the damage created by recurring natural disasters, many residents have relocated.

“Probably a third of our residents haven’t returned,” said Mayor Billy Hammond.

Hammond says roughly 950 people lived in Fair Bluff before Hurricane Matthew. He assumes that number has dwindled to 600. With federal grant money, more than 70 homes were slated to be repaired, elevated or bought out after the storm. The process of repairing property damage that occurred during Hurricane Matthew never began, according to Randy Britt.

“Paperwork through the government,” said Hammond. “It’s a slow process.”

Despite experiencing significant amounts of damage from two major hurricanes, some residents of Fair Bluff are persevering.

Hurricane Matthew destroyed Jeff Prince’s Ford dealership, so he started his own used-car sales business and set up shop in a new building one month before Hurricane Florence flooded it. He is now attempting to restore his office.
“I felt like it was good for me to continue servicing my customers with car sales,” Prince said. “Of course, I think it’s great for the town itself to have a business that’s restored itself.”

Like Prince, many residents are hopeful that Fair Bluff will overcome the damage it has received.

“We will survive,” said Britt. “I can’t tell you what we’ll look like, but we will survive.”