Downtown New Bern bounces back after Florence, but many families still struggle

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NEW BERN, N.C. (WTVD) — Hurricane Florence was a mammoth storm nearly 500 miles wide, and the small city of New Bern might have been its unofficial ground zero.

Six months later, the historic downtown is roaring back to business in time for summer even as some homeowners anxiously await for their own renovations to finish.

“Builders are out there every day, you hear the hammers and saws,” Mike Lentz, a downtown business owner, told ABC11. “It’s a delight to see that. This is a special place in people’s hearts and a special place for North Carolina as a whole.”

Officially, New Bern sustained $100 million worth of damage from the hurricane; the City Manager’s Office reports 235 businesses and 1,761 homes were affected.

Most hotels and bed & breakfast inns are open too, except for the DoubleTree Hotel. The management company told ABC11 that the hotel remains closed because of a legal battle with its insurance company.

Lentz’s restaurant is among a handful still under construction.

“We came in, we got a hose, cleaned everything up and we thought everything was going to be good,” he explained. “But you don’t realize how much mold grows and how quickly it grows.”

Still, many homeowners outside of downtown are growing impatient with the pace of recovery. A visit to Oaks Drive shows several homes still in disrepair, including that of Robert and Christine Moseley.

“It’s hell,” Robert Moseley told ABC11. “I’m here working every day.”

Moseley’s three-bedroom home was insured, but he says the money is not coming in fast enough for repairs to move swiftly. While he waits, the Moseleys, their daughter and grandson are all living in a small trailer unit provided by FEMA.

“Moving back home will be the greatest day of our lives,” Christine Moseley told ABC11. “We’re grateful we have a place to sleep, but it’s not too comfortable and it’s not home.”

In six months, city crews have hauled away an estimated 10,000 tons of debris at a cost of $4.5 million. Officials told ABC11 that the tonnage includes about 180,000 cubic feet of natural debris like limbs and vegetation – enough to stack 10 feet high covering 600 football fields.

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