Onslow County families are preparing for the 2019 hurricane season, and some of them are doing so while still working on repairs from Hurricane Florence nine months ago.
After months of rebuilding his home following flooding from Hurricane Florence, Sam Gibbs, of Jacksonville, is sure of one thing as another hurricane season approaches.
He’ll only do it once.
“If we get another major hurricane, I’m not rebuilding again; we’re going back to Tennessee,” Gibbs said when asked about his thoughts about another hurricane season beginning June 1.
Gibbs said 15 feet of water flooded his family’s house at the end of Forest Bluff Drive in the River Hills subdivision.
Their house is elevated and they had never had water reach past their driveway during storms in the three years they have lived there. His brother lives down the road and has lived in the neighborhood since 2009 and never saw such flooding.
Hurricane Florence was different.
“I don’t think there is a house around here that didn’t get flooding,” Gibbs said.
‘Worst we’ve had’
C.W. Grant Jr., of Sneads Ferry, is now living with his daughter after Florence left damage to his home.
“You’re always going to have a hurricane,” Grant said. “There ain’t nothing you can do, but you can prepare for them you know.”
Grant, 75, has owned his house in Sneads Ferry for 50 years. Florence was the only hurricane that caused damage.
“Water damage had got in there,” Grant said. “It had black mold, so my daughter bought a house over here in North Shore so I’m staying with her.”
Along with water damage to his house, Grant said he also had trees fall down in his yard.
“We had three pecan trees fall down in a row,” Grant said. “It must have been a little tornado or something … I bought them in ’69.”
Grant said when it comes to hurricanes, you can prepare for the season but there isn’t much that can be done against damages inflicted during the storm.
“There ain’t too much you can do,” Grant said. “The hurricane we had last year, that was the worst one we’ve ever had. What happened it just moved so slow … It lasted for two days, it rained and wind blew solid.”
Marilyn Margolis, 63, lives in the house she grew up in located near the waterfront in downtown Jacksonville, one still being repaired from damages Florence caused nine months ago.
“The house was built for our family; for my mom and dad,” Margolis said.
Margolis said the 65-year-old split level home has gone through plenty of hurricanes throughout the years, but Florence caused the most damage.
“A tree fell on the air condition,” Margolis said. “It was big enough that it hit on the roof and the porch area and the back room … Downstairs, it came in through the wall because part of the wall is underground. And then they found there was a place on the storm window where the water poured in. The water when I got home two weeks later was still standing in the bathroom.”
Margolis said the cost to repair the damage is at least $30,000, and she hopes they’ll be finished repairing her home in three or four weeks.
There are homes that remain vacant in the River Hills subdivision where Gibbs lives, and others with signs of ongoing repairs with contractors parked in driveways.
At the Gibbs house, the newly replaced stairway to the front door is an outward sign of the work that has been done to repair damage, but inside is the result of the long hours Gibbs has put into rebuilding his home, from replacing floors and walls to building their furniture himself.
The RV that he and his wife, Christina, and their kids lived in for months while he worked, no longer sits in the driveway and inside the family has settled back into their home.
But tools still sit in a corner of a bedroom. There is still work to be done.
“We got back in the house at the end of November but to be honest it is still not done,” Gibbs said.
‘Can’t prepare enough’
Gibbs recommends keeping all insurance up to date and after Hurricane Florence he’s glad he did.
“What shocked me more than the amount of time it has taken is how much everything costs nowadays,” Gibbs said.
Even the smallest items add up, such as regular doorknobs or electrical outlet covers. What may only coast $10 individually adds up when you need to replace all of them in a house.
“Think about all the doorknobs you have in a house,” he said.
Gibbs, who retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years, has lived in Onslow County long enough to see his share of hurricanes but he had never heard of a county-wide evacuation and can’t recall a storm that lasted as long as Hurricane Florence.
“I was shocked we got the flooding we did,” Gibbs said
If another storm comes around he’s worried flooding will be worse than before and not just because of Mother Nature. Gibbs said there is still a lot of debris clogging waterways after Hurricane Florence and believes that could make it hard for water to flow, increasing chance of flooding.
As another hurricane season rolls around, Gibbs said his family prepares as best they can and if another order to evacuate comes, they’ll pack up their belongings and head out.
But if they see the flooding and damage to their home they did after Florence, it will be too hard to return.
“(Florence) was a one and done for us,” he said.
Margolis prepares for hurricane season every year by stocking up on different materials, including plenty of water and pop-top cans. Margolis also stocks up on objects like buckets, lanterns, batteries, reusable utensils and treats.
Florence taught her a valuable lesson about how to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
“The truth is all you can do is do your best to prepare,” Margolis said. “Because this one showed me that you can’t prepare enough. With the wind and the storm surge, you can’t prepare. All you can do is do your best … You can’t control Mother Nature. It made me aware of what it can do.”
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com. Emily Dingler contributed to this story and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For digital subscription information, click here.