Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke

Meeting for businesses Friday; FEMA update

The Ocracoke Variety Store is almost back to normal after receiving several inches of water inside the building from Hurricane Dorian Sept. 6. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

While neither Hyde nor Dare county has yet received a formal disaster declaration to deal with the Hurricane Dorian aftermath, a meeting for all businesses will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in the Ocracoke Community Center.

Conducted by the Small Business & Technology Development Center at Elizabeth City State University, the meeting will discuss loans for rebuilding Ocracoke Island following devastating flooding from the passage of Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 6.  Six different organizations will provide info on the recovery process, potential funding through loan programs and general business advice, said Hyde County Manager Kris Noble

The SBTDC and their partners at Thread Capital (the lending subsidiary of The North Carolina Rural Center) will assist with applications for its Rapid Recovery Disaster Loan Program, said Matthew Byrne, general business counselor with SBTDC, in an email to Dare County.

They will take applications because he and others believe it’s just a matter of time until Hyde gets the disaster declarations it needs, Byrne said in the email.

According to the press release, “This program provides up to $50,000 in funding that is meant to be GAP/bridge funding in anticipation of either Insurance Proceeds or Regular Bank Business (including those that may have an SBA Guaranty) or SBA Disaster Loans. 

“If all goes as planned and the loan is paid off (via insurance proceeds, bank loan, SBA loan, winning the lottery, etc.) within the initial six-month period, there are no monthly payments and the loan accrues no interest.

In the meantime, Noble continues to nudge Gov. Roy Cooper to approve a disaster declaration for individuals, following the one that was made for roads, infrastructure and debris removal and which Cooper approved on Friday. This enabled the debris removal to begin on Saturday. However, that request is still on President Donald’s Trump’s desk for reimbursement to North Carolina.

Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner, explained the Federal Emergency Management Agency process:

“Hyde makes the request to the state for both individual and public assistance. Then the state passes those requests onto Washington, D.C., but the governor’s office made the first request only for the public assistance—roads, infrastructure and debris removal.”

Trump still has not approved that request.

Hyde County Manager Kris Noble, left, and Ocracoke’s county commissioner Tom Pahl, talk to Bob Vogel, regional director of the National Park Service’s Southeast Region based in Atlanta, who visited Ocracoke on Thursday. Photo: C. Leinbach

“In Cooper’s request, he reserved the right to submit an application for individual assistance at a later date.

(At the time), they didn’t think they had enough data for individual losses to substantiate the claim for individual assistance, but that data is being collected for transmittal to Cooper. 

“They are preparing to make the application for individual assistance.”

Once we get that declaration, we get an emergency response center where people will be able to access resources divided into business needs and personal needs, Pahl said.

Cooper, in a press release today, said he requested a major disaster declaration for Public Assistance from FEMA on Sept. 13 and is awaiting approval. State officials have encouraged North Carolina’s congressional leaders, including Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis to work to expedite approval of this request.

While houses and businesses are torn apart, remediated and rebuilt, the island needs restaurants and hotels for our contractor workforce, he said.

Moving Ocracoke from a “soup kitchen economy” to a normal economy following the record-breaking flooding will take time, he said.

“It’s not just cleanup, but then we have to rebuild, and that’s going to be significant,” Pahl said. “We’ll have hundreds on the island with contract crews.”

So, it will be a while before visitors can come back.

“It’s not gonna be a tourism environment,” he said. “It’s gonna be a workplace environment. We need the ferry space for materials, supplies and contractors. We have hundreds of houses that need to be repaired.”

“I’m very sympathetic to the few businesses that could be up and running but we have a long way to go before we allow visitors back,” he said.