'Heartbroken:' Cumberland County residents return to find devastation

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Friday, September 21, 2018

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dwight Chavis toured his Spring Lake home on Thursday with ABC11 for the first time since Hurricane Florence forced him out. He described what he saw with one word:


Chavis moved in a year ago with his wife and rebuilt the home after Hurricane Matthew gutted the home.

"I had to do all this from square one from the ground up," he said.

The couple is also expecting their first child in a few weeks.

"Got my son's room and stuff ready -- got a baby on the way," Chavis said.

The family will have to rebuild or relocate after Florence destroyed their home.

The refrigerator in Chavis' home lies on its rear in the living room, instead of standing upright in the kitchen. Chavis is contemplating rebuilding after FEMA assessed the damage Thursday afternoon.

"I wouldn't mind doing it again, but I don't know," he said. "It was supposed to have been a once-in-a-hundred-year flood, and it's been two times in two years ... I don't know where we go from here."

In nearby Fayetteville, Linda Groves stood in the doorway of her home during Hurricane Florence and watched as the tree in her front yard split in half and fell over.

"I ran," Groves told ABC11. "My next door neighbor was over here and she flew."

The tree nearly fell on their other neighbor's roof. An adjacent tree blocked its fall onto the roof of the neighbor's home. On Thursday, her husband cleaned up the mess in their front yard.

"It's never been this bad," he said.

Back in Spring Lake, the decades-old Starlite Motel is a total loss. Water from Florence crept to the motel's front door before eventually overtaking the entire property. The water's force caused the roof to come off, walls to fall down, and a row of rooms to give way to erosion and crumble into the Little River.

Ratcliffe Watson used to live near Starlite but has since moved to Fayetteville.

"Not in my wildest dreams I thought the water would destroy this place like that," Watson said. "As it is now, that's pretty bad."

He also knows the motel's owner and is at a loss for words. "Ever since this happened, I don't even call him. Because what I'm going to say to him," Watson wondered. "I really can't say anything to him."

A Spring Lake police officer who did not identify himself said the motel's tenants caused a lot of problems and said: "it needed to go."

Many people who are familiar with the motel shared the officer's opinion. Others saw it as a loss of revenue for someone.

"That's somebody's livelihood that they're looking at right there and it's all gone," Watson said.

"It is what it is, it's been destroyed," said Cumberland County assistant county manager, Tracy Jackson. "So now the decision has to be made whether or not to rebuild."