‘We need FEMA assistance and we need it right away’: Devastated Ocracoke waits for federal aid after Dorian

OBX

OCRACOKE, N.C. (WAVY) — When you get to Ocracoke Island after a 2 and 1/2 hour ferry ride from Hatteras Island, the first thing you notice are the abandoned cars along the side of the road and the debris piles that appear more numerous than the mosquitoes.

10 On Your Side rode over on the ferry with James Dickerson, who is with Patriots Roofing.

“We love you so much,” Dickerson said as he hugged Ashley Harrell, whose home was flooded and her business lost. She owns the restaurant Gaffer’s Sports Pub, which kept on serving meals after Dorian hit.

“They are legends,” Dickerson said.  

What keeps Harrell going after losing so much? “Well people keep sending stuff to us, and we keep distributing it. She also had her arm around her daughter Malli, who is out of school like all children on Ocracoke because the school was heavily damaged in the Hurricane. The children are apparently going to camps to fill the time of not being in school.  

Harrell added, “this is total devastation. Almost every single home and business on this island is damaged. We need help.” 

As far as federal assistance goes, Harrell is still waiting on FEMA’s response.

“I don’t know where they are,” she replied.

10 On Your Side asked Hyde County Vice-Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Tom Pahl: where is FEMA?  

His answer was stunningly blunt. “We don’t know where FEMA is. We are trying to find FEMA … they are not responding quickly enough. They are not responding fast enough. We are doing everything we can, including working with senators and congressmen.”

After 10 On Your Side got to Ocracoke, we saw what many would construe as a disaster.

We called FEMA, which reached out to North Carolina Emergency Management, who sent out a statement from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s office.

The statement is enclosed here, but there is no decision on emergency funding for Ocracoke yet. The dots apparently are not getting connected to get FEMA relief.  

“The individual assistance (most people need) the governor withheld that request because the governor needs more information from those on the ground, and we are providing that information,” Commissioner Pahl said.

That is little comfort to Lucinda Gaskins. “I lost everything. Everybody else did to, so I am not alone … I am wondering where FEMA is. This is a disaster. Almost everyone on this island has been flooded and there’s no place to go, no transportation, nothing.”

What’s Pahl’s message to FEMA? “My message to FEMA is this is a disaster. What happened in Ocracoke, we need FEMA assistance and we need it right away. These people are hurting.”

“This is my mom and dad’s home. This is the home we are going to have to tear down,” Stephanie O’Neal said choking back tears. 

Her family on the island lost 5 of 7 homes. “I am very disappointed with FEMA. They need to put people on the ground and make the assessment and it doesn’t look like we had the damage that we had,” O’Neal added.

The story of O’Neal during Dorian is amazing. She and her brother got in a boat and went to their parents’ home, and went through neck high water into the house and into the parent’s bedroom.

There the couple was in the bed above the flooding waters in the bedroom. They were then airlifted by the Coast Guard.  

“Their home is destroyed and I’m heartbroken. Just everything they have is gone, all the memories, the pictures, just everything.”  

O’Neal’s brother’s home, the parents’ rental property, her niece’s home and her own were flooded.

“So this is my home. It was built in 1923. It was flooded in the 1944 storm, and this is the first time since that it has flooded.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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