Meetings with FEMA, state leaders underway as Brunswick County awaits disaster aid

Emergency officials are still working to secure funding for areas of Brunswick County devastated by Hurricane Isaias.
Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 4:39 PM EDT
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BOLIVIA, N.C. (WECT) - Emergency officials are still working to secure funding for areas of Brunswick County devastated by Hurricane Isaias.

Governor Roy Cooper has already requested SBA disaster aid for Bertie County, but groups in Brunswick County, where the storm made landfall, are still waiting for answers.

Brunswick County Emergency Manager Edward Conrow confirms local leaders, state emergency officials, and FEMA met twice Wednesday to discuss Isaias-related damage, which was spread between several towns, so it’s been a long process compiling all the data.

Leaders say they weren’t surprised to hear Bertie County is already moving forward with securing SBA disaster aid earlier than Brunswick County. The damage from the tornadoes was isolated to a small area and leaders in Bertie County were able to conduct their damage assessments directly after the skies cleared.

“The storm ended on that Tuesday but we were still in response mode for several days after helping evacuate people out of the area, moving people, we spent several days doing that, where we weren’t doing the damage assessments. At that point, we had major fires at Ocean Isle, we had the major damage on Oak Island, Bald Head Island had some damage from tornadoes there. It took some time to move from that response to the recovery aspect” said Conrow. “I’m a firm believer in let’s do it right, let’s do it methodically, so we’re not shortchanging ourselves on anything.”

The initial preliminary damage assessments have already been completed by the beach towns and sent to the state. Now the state is working with local leaders and FEMA on the joint damage assessment process, holding meetings as they formulate the application for the disaster declaration.

According to Conrow, they plan on moving to the next step of submitting the proposal to FEMA next week and should learn in September whether federal money will be used to reimburse damage costs.

The lengthy recovery process is just one of many things on the minds of Brunswick County’s emergency officials.

“This is not gonna be a short-term recovery effort, it’s gonna be a long-term recovery effort and we still have a significant part of hurricane season left so we’re very vulnerable right now,” said Conrow. “It’s a moving machine, we’re doing multiple things at one time, trying to recover from the storm, respond to the storm and prepare for the next storm. And still dealing with the COVID situation.”

While Isaias came with many tough lessons for homeowners and businesses across Brunswick County, emergency workers hope it served as a good reminder to take every storm seriously and to avoid getting hung up on a storm’s category.

“We really need to focus on the hazards and impacts and that showed true in this event. The storm came up the coast as a tropical depression upgraded quickly to a category one hurricane, but the whole time our partners and the weather service and the hurricane center are focused on the concerns for tornadoes in our area and concerns of storm surge. We particularly don’t get a lot of storm surge here but that was the two main things they were pushing out, and we didn’t get a lot of wind damage. We got some wind damage but the majority of our damage was from tornadoes and storm surge-- life-threatening storm surge so we dodged a bullet with no loss of life or severe injuries,” said Conrow.

Leaders are asking people in hard-hit areas of the county to be patient in the process and encouraging anyone with immediate needs to reach out to their town or county government for help with food or housing.

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