NC Recovery Series: Three Devasting Hurricanes Later, Duplin County Woman Returns Home

Thursday, May 2, 2019 - 8:35am

WALLACE- For more than 30 years, Susan Johnson has been a resident in Duplin County. Johnson has experienced three devastating hurricanes over those years: Hurricanes Floyd, Matthew and Florence. The aftermath of each hurricane was different. Hurricane Floyd’s flooding in 1999 left ankle-high water in Johnson’s home; however, her home remained dry when Hurricane Matthew subsided.

Hurricane Florence was a surprise to Johnson as there was four feet of water inside the home and nine feet of water surrounding the house.

Johnson evacuated her home to stay close by with family members before Florence made landfall. The flood area stretched three miles out from Johnson’s home. Two months later, Johnson was able to access her home but she wasn’t mentally ready. Instead, she sent her daughter and sister to check out the house. 

Johnson lost everything in her home, save a few clothes. Her home required being gutted from top to bottom, and then repaired.  

Johnson took advantage of the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program. STEP provides rapid, partial repairs, to make homes safe, clean and secure so families can return to their homes.

The North Carolina Baptist on Mission (NCBM) is one of the volunteer groups that has been active in the STEP program. Repairs to the Johnson home by NCBM included new dry wall, flooring and insulation. Volunteers with NCBM who have worked on Johnson’s home have included teenagers and college students. They hail from as all over the country — Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Hawaii, to name a few.

“It’s amazing what they came in and did. I cannot say thank you enough,” Johnson said.  “I couldn’t have done this alone and I have been truly blessed.”

Hurricane Florence left a path of destruction and flooding through the state in September 2018. Since then, North Carolinians, with the help of federal and state resources, as well as nonprofit groups, have worked to rebuild hard hit areas. These stories showcase their recovery journeys as North Carolinians move forward rebuilding with strength and resilience.

Lossie McLean