Fair Bluff slowly rebuilding four years after Hurricane Matthew

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FAIR BLUFF, NC (WWAY) — Thursday marks the four year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, the storm that turned one southeastern North Carolina town into a ghost town.

Fair Bluff, once a picturesque town featured in movies and on postcards, has fallen on hard times.

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“Just looking at everything now, it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful,” Kim Bennett, a Fair Bluff native, said. “It looks like a movie set. It looks like a ghost town movie set. And it just breaks your heart that, you know, that we don’t know what’s to come.”

Local Gene Martin says he watched his hometown drown during Matthew only briefly coming up for air before Hurricane Florence.

“Our trashcan was beginning to float, so I got it and put it up on the porch…and left saying it’ll be fine. Well that was Saturday, and it was Wednesday before we could get back downtown,” Martin said. “Now I assume that trashcan is in the Atlantic Ocean or somewhere.”

The storms wrecked town hall and downtown stores including a grocery store, movie theater, and gas station. Since then, help has been slow.

Mayor Billy Hammond says some are still homeless as the small town continues to apply for grants to rebuild, stating, “when you take four years of being out of your house and being somewhere else…in my opinion there’s no place like home.”

Martin directs the town’s visitor’s center, and says the people of Fair Bluff are used to pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

“Fair Bluff has been knocked down a lot,” Martin said. “Tobacco was king and now it’s gone. Textiles were strong, it’s gone away. Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane Florence. COVID-19. The good Lord says I’m not gonna give you anything more than you can handle and he is exceptionally proud of the people in Fair Bluff.”

Fair Bluff received a grant for $4.8 million earlier this year to rebuild, but the pandemic has slowed things down.