Hurricane Florence struck just north of Wilmington, North Carolina two weeks ago but the hurdles are still mounting. For some areas of the Carolinas, natural disaster is still a threat as the waters from the historic inland rains are emptying out into rivers. The death toll has reached 48 and may continue to climb; Hundreds of thousands of homes have been damaged.
The natural disaster is creating an environmental disaster, as is often times the case. Thousands of factory farm animals died in the floods, local shellfisheries are closed and the entire tourism industry will feel the effects for months to come. Officials are now warning of bacteria and other dangers in the water. A NASA satellite photo shows brown runoff flooding into coastal bays and the ocean.
Watermen and women on the East Coast are no stranger to natural disasters and states of emergencies, and the surfing and outdoor communities are already stepping in to help.
“It’s insane. It’s really hard to grasp because of how many people are affected that are off the map,” Buxton, North Carolina pro surfer Brett Barley tells ASN. “I’ve spoken to so many people who have gotten flooded but they’re more concerned with some other area, some of the poorest communities in the Carolinas that were flooded so bad that support hadn’t even been able to get to them days later.”
The position where Barley’s native Outer Banks stick out to sea makes them vulnerable to storms every year. While they prepared for the worst (and there certainly were some homes flooded) Cape Hatteras was mostly spared.
Barley recorded and posted some storm overwash before Florence made landfall:
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Hurricane Florence and it's first big High Tide surge with rapidly building swell, down in Hatteras Village. – The Diamond Shoals buoy is building by the hour, and currently 26ft @ 14seconds of serious SE swell. With Florence slowing down in it's current location, that's not what we want. – Hang on Hatteras peeps!! This thing's got some serious power.
“It was high tide and the storm was still coming at us. We were really concerned with the tide that was coming that night and was supposed to be even higher when the swell was building. But then the storm took that west/southwest track and the surge had backed down,” Barley explains.
“The whole Island was a little awe-struck,” he admits. “We almost felt guilty that we didn't get it knowing how much flooding there was to our south. Of course, you have to take everything I say with a grain of salt because my house isn’t one that always gets flooded.”
The most affected areas were those near waterways in southern North Carolina and South Carolina and even low-lying inland regions. Despite once being a raging Category 5 (and formidable landfalling storm) Hurricane Florence’s legacy will be her lasting rains.
In the wake of the storm, a crew from Barley’s community drove south to the affected areas to deliver supplies and offer a lending hand as was the case throughout the East Coast the past two weeks. Barley wound up packing his truck full of tools, coolers, gas, and 120 pounds of ice, and driving to the New Bern area all on his own.
“The first thing that struck me was that every river smelled worse and worse the farther south you went,” he tells ASN.
Barley has seen more than his share of hurricane destruction. He references the aftermath of Hurricane Mathew when some 90 homes were flooded in his community. He was taken aback by the sheer number of entire neighborhoods that had been eaten by the flood waters. He spent two days helping empty and demo flooded homes.
Among the hurdles, downed trees have been a major issue as they are preventing victims from accessing homes and businesses, slowing immediate recovery. One group that has emerged is Port City Proud, a Wrightsville Beach-based group of construction and building professionals that have been clearing trees and debris from properties so that residents can begin to put their lives back together after reports that companies were coming in from other states and price gouging their neighbors.
They are also raising money through GoFundMe for a non-profit called Hope from Helen, a 501(c)3 charity which they claim has earned a reputation locally for helping neighbors in need. The president and founder of Hope for Helen happens to be Tony Butler, the Global Surf Industries Customer Service Manager and former co-owner of Sweetwater Surf Shop in Wrightsville Beach (who has been hands-on in recovery).
The Wrightsville Beach-based brand called Before Work Surf Club has also been donating proceeds to Hope for Helen and local shelters. The support was so incredible that they’re largely out of inventory.
Surfers in New Jersey will never forget Superstorm Sandy in 2012. But they haven’t forgotten all the support that came from outside the area either. Jetty, the Long Beach Island, New Jersey-based surf and lifestyle company that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars which eventually led to the formation of their own non-profit, The Jetty Rock Foundation, have launched a Unite+Rebuild Hurricane Florence campaign primarly around a new t-shirt.
“We took our time with rolling this out and we appreciate everyone’s patience. Despite slacking news coverage, we spoke to plenty of contacts and it is evident that the Carolinas are in need,” said Jetty co-founder Jeremy DeFilippis. “We’ll be printing the T-shirts next week and directing funds south as soon as possible while continuing to gauge needs.”
Jetty is donating an additional $5 per item sold from its Hurricane Florence collection and has an additional Text-to-Donate campaign. (You can text “thecarolinas” to 41444 to support the cause.)
Wilmington's reggae/rock band, Signal Fire will be playing a Wilmington Strong fundraiser on Saturday at the Wrightsville Beach Brewery to benefit Good Shepherd Center, Humble Roots Farm and a local family fighting breast cancer who just lost their home.
And it’s not just on the East Coast. After landfall, O’Neill donated 5 percent of every online purchase to Florence relief.
As many of us know, donations made to specific local charities are often far more effective than the huge organizations with large administrative budgets.
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