'A lot of people were suffering': Hurricane survivors discuss life after Florence

'A lot of people were suffering': Hurricane survivors discuss life after Florence

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Officials in Wilmington said people need to realize they were isolated by water because of 30 inches of rain from a devastating storm, not because they are a coastal community.

Hurricane Florence was disturbing even for people used to seeing some of the worst hurricanes.

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"A lot of us were without food even though we had gas stoves to make warm meals," said mother Lacreamy Clayton.

Clayton survived the storm with an 11-year-old son.

"A lot of our food went bad very quickly," she said.

After three days of hard rain and no power, people in her neighborhood broke into the Family Dollar store next door, taking what they could.

She said she doesn't approve of their actions, but said she understands that some people felt desperate.

Store officials told police not to make arrests.

Cedric Harrison is executive director of Support the Port, an organization connecting storm survivors with resources to recover.

"How else would you expect people to get those resources and kept them above water and sane?" said Harrison. "A lot of people were suffering."

Support the Port conducted a study with the UNC Wilmington Department of Criminology and Sociology, examining how food, water and essential resources were distributed during the hurricane.

"It's been a massive mess," said Harrison.

He said the raw data will be released later this year, but it shows distribution centers were often out of the reach of families most in need of help.

New Hanover County conducted an extensive debrief of its response and determined more had to be done for those who need the most help, including adding mobile resources instead of drop-off points.

"We really looked at all avenues," said New Hanover County spokeswoman Kate Oelslager.

When asked if the city is ready for the next storm, Oelslager said, "It's hard to answer, 'Are you ready?' because do you really know what's in store for the next storm?"

Florence survivor Sabrina Saadeh said she isn’t ready.

Her home and every other home in her complex were condemned after Hurricane Florence. Her two sons are among the 500 children who lost homes because of the hurricane.

She said that she worries about what happens if there is another hurricane like Florence this season.

"It's like a lose-lose situation," she said.

Emergency officials said even with limitations, nothing beats planning.

They suggest that residents know where they will go if there is severe weather, make a plan to get there and be sure they can stay there until things get better.