Repairs continue in Pender County 3 years after Hurricane Florence makes landfall

Three years later, people remember the devastation from Hurricane Florence
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - During Hurricane Florence, parts of Pender County experienced 40 inches of rain.

The storm made landfall in New Hanover County exactly three years ago Tuesday, closing thousands of roads and prompting approximately 1,000 water rescues.

It’s a storm that came with $17 billion in damage, and many communities are still trying to rebuild years later.

The Aguilar family of Burgaw lost everything when the floodwaters rose in Florence.

Three years later, the family’s home is coming along. It’s already been rebuilt by volunteers, but on Tuesday, their front door was still suspended on temporary stilts, ten feet above their welcome mat.

Crews will be out later in the week to begin building a temporary foundation around the house, install an elevator, build a porch, and put in stairs below each of the doors.

Hurricane Florence forced the family to start over, but the damage it caused isn’t what Jose Aguilar remembers most.

“The goodness of all those people that came and helped us out here,” said Jose Aguilar as he looked up at his house. “They came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, a lot of people went inside this house.”

Pender Baptist on Mission coordinated volunteers from 44 states to work on hundreds of homes in the county damaged by Florence. The site coordinator says volunteers worked on a total of 671 homes, completely rebuilding 147 homes.

“It’s one thing for us who live here and do this for our community, but when you take some people like those in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and so on that just keep coming for a week at a time, and just pour their hearts into it — man that’s just awesome. To God be the glory,” said site coordinator Mike Moser of Baptist on Mission.

Life still isn’t back to normal for many Florence survivors, but Moser says Baptist on Mission has already completed a lot of the disaster repair work and they have a new focus.

Many Pender County neighbors had to make the tough decision to leave their homes after they were inundated with water, but the group is pushing to elevate as many homes as it can to help residents stay in Pender County long term.

”Now we’re at the phase — and it’s different funding — where we’re able to raise them up and give them protection, so next time they say a hurricane is coming, they don’t have to worry about it,” explained Moser.

The ability for Jose and his wife, Ana, to stay in a place they’ve called home for more than 30 years is a gift that can’t be measured in feet or inches. Ana still tears up with gratitude looking at their home suspended on the wooden risers.

“This means I’m not gonna run away now, this means I’m gonna stay in my home and I can fish from the window,” smiled Jose Aguilar.

The Aguilar’s home is expected to be completely ready for them to move back into by the end of October. Pender Baptists on Mission says the funding that allows for them to raise up the homes and make repairs will dry up at the end of October, and the group’s next moves hinge on what legislators decide about the budget.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Baptists on Mission learn more about how to get involved on their website here.

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