Hurricane Florence isn’t over.
It isn’t going to be for a long, long time.
We’re not talking about immediate impacts, although those continue with flooding and the difficulties for residents returning to cut-off areas.
No, we’re talking about the long run. Jackson County, thankfully, was spared by the storm. For those of us here, Florence was a couple of days of mild anxiety, a couple of days of checking in on weather reports. It’s an event that’s over.
The event is over, but Florence has left an impact on our brethren in other parts of North Carolina. A slow, grinding storm will be followed by a slow, grinding recovery. While many of us have answered the impulse to help in the short term, help will be needed in the long term as that recovery proceeds.
That recovery will be a monumental task. Start with the simple acts of clearing brush, the humming of chainsaws, the sounds of power trucks headed back into dark neighborhoods. Continue on to those dealing with flooded homes in the hot, humid climate of eastern North Carolina and the complications those conditions bring (mold, etc.) Continue on to the time when the roads are cleared and the power has returned; there will be issues dealing with water quality from who-knows-what kind of toxins that have swept into neighborhoods, from coal ash pond collapses to hog lagoon issues and more.
It will be a long haul.
There were many good things regarding this storm. Forecasting was generally excellent, with plenty of warnings for affected areas. Emergency response was massive and effective. People generally heeded warnings to clear out. Convoys of power trucks were in staging areas before the storm came close to hitting. And at least for a brief period, our petty political divisions were set aside and everyone pulled together in addressing the monster bearing down on the state.
Aside from the good, the bad will also follow the storm. When the floodwaters rise snakes often follow, and unfortunately that’s the case with humans as well. Follow your instinct to help, but make sure your generosity isn’t being taken advantage of. The following advice from the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office is sound:
• Watch out for groups mimicking the names of established, respected charities.
• If you get an unsolicited call, text or email from an organization, research that organization yourself online instead of clicking on links the organization provides. Also make your donations directly on the charity’s official website rather than clicking on a link in a text or email.
• Never give your credit card or bank account information over the phone or email.
• Be cautious about circulating GoFundMe pages appealing for donations. While many of these may be well-intentioned, it’s wise to consider which charities have the infrastructure, experience and resources on the ground to help the most people.
A good place to start if you’re wanting to give that help is the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, nc.gov/agencies/volunteer/disaster-assistance. It offers a donation link in addition to volunteer needs and information about VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) groups that are mobilizing. The site offers a reminder that volunteer opportunities will be available months and years after a disaster.
Other groups worth checking include the FoodBank of Eastern and Central NC, the downstate version of the venerable organization we know as MANNA FoodBank. Check their website for more information. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are also reliable go-to organizations.
Help is needed in the short term for our fellow North Carolinians, and will be needed in the long term as well. People will be needing help as summer winds down, as fall winds down and likely as winter gives way to spring in 2019.
This storm was a marathon. Its recovery phase needs to be as well.