FAIR BLUFF, NC (WWAY) — Tuesday marks three years since Hurricane Matthew. More than $1 billion in state and federal money has been spent on recovery, but many are still struggling.
One area especially devastated was the town of Fair Bluff in Columbus County. As many were just beginning to recover, Hurricane Florence flooded the town again just two years later.
“It was a disaster,” said Fair Bluff Mayor Billy Hammond. “We lost over two thirds of our people got flooded out and had to get out of town.”
Mayor Hammond says only three homes have been replaced since Matthew. Downtown, every store remains closed and boarded up besides the post office.
The town wants to build new stores in a different area less prone to flooding, but Hammond says the grant process has been difficult.
“We have no money to match any grants, we’re broke,” Hammond said. “And we’re hoping to get some funds to purchase the land and help us build some buildings.”
Hammond is hopeful that people will come back to Fair Bluff, but residents aren’t convinced.
“Fair Bluff will never be the same again,” said resident Cynthia Smith. “There’s so many residents that have already left, I don’t even think they’re considering about coming back.”
Smith has lived in Fair Bluff for 19 years. She says a lot of residents are hurt when they see new construction at town hall and the fire department while so many homes and business still sit condemned.
“Are we forgotten? What about us? This is our home, what are you going to do about us?” Smith asked.
When WWAY asked Smith what keeps her in Fair Bluff, she said she has no choice but to stay.
“My home, it hasn’t been flooded, but I can’t sell it because I can’t prove that it hasn’t been flooded,” Smith said. “Nobody’s going to believe me, because my home is in Fair Bluff.”
Disaster relief funds are a part of the 2019-2020 North Carolina budget, which is still tied up at the state level after a controversial vote in the house last month.