LUMBERTON — Each time Warren Altman walks across the sagging floor of his home in South Lumberton, he is reminded of Oct. 8, Hurricane Matthew and all that rising water.
Altman, however, considers himself one of the lucky ones. His home on Nevada Street suffered little damage and he and his wife are back in the home they have lived in for more than 40 years.
Altman on Thursday applied for a hazard mitigation grant being offered through the state Division of Emergency Management that would pay to raise his home to the Federal Emergency Management Agency standard of one foot above base flood elevation. Grants were also available for a buyout of a home or repair work.
Statewide $100 million is currently available.
“I was told I would know in August if I will get the grant,” he said, “but it may take up to 18 months to get the money.”
Altman said that floodwater never got into his house, but did get under the house and “up to the flooring.” There was damage to the foundation, he said.
Altman and his wife Linda stayed with their daughter in Durham for almost seven weeks before they could get back into their home.
“We’re still recovering, and I don’t know if South Lumberton will ever fully recover,” he said.
South Lumberton and West Lumberton, which are near the Lumber River, suffered the most damage in the city when the river reached flood levels 11 feet above flood stage.
Altman said that the cost of raising the elevation of a home in the Lumberton area averages between $5,000 and $6,000.
”That’s a lot of money and most people can’t afford it,” he said.
Glen Bass, whose home on N.C. 72 was destroyed, applied Thursday for a hazard mitigation grant that would provide for a buyout of his property. The program offers the value of the property before it was damaged.
“I lost everything,” said Bass. “There was as much as five feet of water in and around my house.”
Bass said he has had flood insurance for 17 years, but his insurance company won’t pay for the entire extent of damage.
This was the third time his property suffered flood damage since 1999, and he has decided to call it quits on trying to continue living on the property that is 18 inches below flood level.
Louise Smith, of Rowland, applied for a hazard mitigation grant that could provide up to $150,000 for her to repair her damaged home. Smith said a tree fell on the roof, causing some leaks. Water also got into a chimney area of her home, resulting in a lot of mildew and mold developing.
“I never saw that much water in my life,” Smith, a lifelong resident of Rowland, said. “It was terrifying. Water was everywhere and up to my knees. I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Smith said that she was told it might be 18 months before she knows if she will receive a grant that will pay for all of the reconstruction expenses for the house she has lived in for about 50 years.
Dixon Ivey, director of Planning and Inspections for Robeson County, said applicants came seeking grants on a steady basis since Tuesday, the first day applications for the grants were accepted. Friday was the last day when state Emergency Management and FEMA officials would be present to answer questions when applications were made.
Ivey, however, said his office will continue to take applications as long as reimbursement money is available or he is told by state Emergency Management officials to stop.
“Friday was not the deadline for filing applications,” Ivey said. “My staff will help anyone wanting to apply. This is a simple application process.”
Ivey said that by the end of the week about 125 to 150 county resident had filed applications for one or more of the hazard mitigation grants. He said that he sent another 40 applications to Lumberton for processing and four applications for processing were sent to Red Springs.
Lumberton and Red Springs leaders administer their own zoning and planning regulations, Ivey said.
Matthew caused widespread destruction in Robeson County, forcing as many as 5,000 people out of their homes, and hundreds of them remain in hotels on FEMA’s dime, unable to find permanent housings. Estimates are as many as 8,000 structures were damaged.
Although no damage estimate has been made for Robeson County, statewide estimates are $2 billion of damage. Robeson County has received about $24 million in FEMA reimbursements so far, more than a quarter of all that has been awarded statewide.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.