Nearly 200 in Pender County still not back in their homes after Hurricane Florence

This story is part of our 2020 hurricane special Storm Ready 2020: Preparing in a Pandemic

Thursday, June 11, 2020
200 in Pender Co. still not back in homes after Hurricane Florence
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200 in Pender Co. still not back in homes after Hurricane Florence.

PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hurricane Florence might have been two years ago but the drawn out recovery process for some makes it feel like the storm was just yesterday.

ABC11 visited Pender County where 70 percent of the county was under water and nearly 200 people are still not back in their homes.

Ronald Darden was prepared to rebuild on his own.

"Long slow process of doing it myself," Darden sighed.

He's done farming work before so that makes him a novice in construction. He also won a battle with substance abuse, so that makes him an expert at taking things one day at a time.

"I got two years, 5 months, 4 days and a few hours," he counted.

The problem is that while drugs and disaster are both recovery, there are two different playbooks.

"Matthew came through, damaged the home some. And then after Matthew before anything could get done with that, Florence came through and wiped out the whole thing," said Darden.

Days later, Darden would risk drowning. He kayaked miles just to lay hold of what was left of his home.

"When I got here...I had to step down the railing on the porch. The water was still high so I was underwater," Darden said.

Ronald did get some relief from FEMA and a small amount of funds along with a FEMA camper.

"Tight, it's tight. We've learned to make do with what you got," he said.

In May, FEMA announced they were pulling the trailers and offered to move Darden to a motel.

"I didn't want to take my son to the motel and there's no kitchen and I can't eat out every night," Darden said.

Thankfully the NC Baptist Men were still on a mission. We were there as they brought Darden a new RV.

"Right now, we're going to put this RV on your property. You will have the assurance of knowing when the deadline is there with FEMA and we'll coordinate it with them. When they take that trailer, you're not going to have to worry about a motel. You will have a place to stay," Mike Moser explained to Darden.

So while it's nothing like home. It is a start.

"We just had a little flood. Hey it washed everything away for a clean start," said Darden.

The Baptists on a Mission plan to work with Ronald Darden every step of the way. They're now discussing construction and rebuilding plans.