Robeson County just starting to rebuild 1 year after Hurricane Matthew

ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. — The flooding from Hurricane Matthew may be long gone, but the storm’s destruction is still felt every day.

Flooding from the storm killed 31 people in North Carolina last year and displaced thousands.

Eyewitness News reporter Ken Lemon returned to eastern North Carolina one year later and found the area is just starting to recover.

The debris that once lined the streets of Lumberton is gone, and if anyone were to by Monroe Sinclair's home, from the outside, they would think things are back to normal. There is nothing inside, however. it looks just like it did when Channel 9 visited one year ago.

Sinclair told Channel 9 he didn’t think he would still be waiting to get back inside his home one year after Hurricane Matthew’s devastation.

“This was a bedroom,” Sinclair said, showing an area of what was once a five-bedroom home that he shared with his wife and four grandchildren. They’re now one of 28 families living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with six people sharing a two-bedroom space.

“Not big enough for my children,” Sinclair said.

[LINK: Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee Services]

Officials who assist recovering families in Robeson County told Channel 9 that after the storm, 2,400 families left waterlogged or damaged homes.

Sinclair could have had his home demolished and received disaster assistance to pay for reconstruction, officials said, but he would have only collected the home's tax value to rebuild.

Stephanie Chavis, emergency services director for Robeson County, said there are instances in which people can't afford to rebuild.

“(The) tax value on that home may have gone down over time," Chavis said.

Those people who have relocated have lost almost everything in their homes, and there is a great need for new or slightly used furniture.

New local government groups are now set up to help people replace all that was washed away, but it's hard to keep up.

Dawn Gavasci, a Robeson County social worker, said people want to work on building stronger communities.

Many of the volunteer groups helping to rebuild for free in North Carolina also sent workers to help hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, where the need is more urgent.

Channel 9 went 160 miles northeast to Princeville, where the Fire Department has a new base of operations. The trucks are secure in the station, but not when they're out on the road.  Several roads that flooded during Hurricane Matthew are slowly caving in.

"The ground is sinking,” Princeville Fire Chief James Powell said. “Initially, some of the holes were 4 1/2 feet deep."

Powell worries a truck may get stuck. One truck’s suspension has already been wrecked by a hole, Powell said.

"It could be a catastrophic incident if left unchecked," Powell said.

City workers patch the holes as quickly as they can, but new ones pop up.

Response times are now about a minute slower -- because of a storm that hit one year ago.

And many here are still waiting for life to get back to normal.

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