01/11/17 — 90 days later, Part V: Living in the aftermath

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90 days later, Part V: Living in the aftermath

By Rochelle Moore
Published in News on January 11, 2017 10:03 AM

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Betty Rose Sutton sits in her temporary home Monday. She and her husband lost their home and belongings to Hurricane Matthew and are still waiting to receive the full amount of insurance money and other Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Carlton "C.V." and Betty Rose Sutton watched as their Hood Drive home of 39 years flooded twice.

Destruction from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 left nearly $72,000 in damage, and they rebuilt. The damage from Hurricane Matthew was much worse.

After 4 feet of water filled their 3,200-square-foot home in October, nearly all of their belongings were lost.

"It was a wreck," she said. "Everything is gone. All of our furniture was destroyed. So, we just saved the washable things. We saved our clothes."

This time, they won't rebuild.

"I tell you, we've been through so much," he said. "With our age, it gets to us. In 1999, I was 62 years (old). Now, I'm 78. It's a lot different this time, and it's worn on us quite a bit. The stress, too. The mental anguish and not knowing what's going to happen from day to day and not knowing where we're going."

The Suttons started seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance after the storm, and they've been waiting on reimbursement checks from their home, personal property and flood insurance policies.

After the hurricane, they lived with relatives for several weeks. Then, they were approved for temporary housing assistance from FEMA. The funding paid for them to stay at the Days Inn, off U.S. 70, for five weeks.

"We could take a shower," she said. "We had a good bed and good heat and a good continental breakfast."

Staying at the Days Inn, the site of a recent law enforcement drug raid, was a bit unnerving, she said.

"It was shaky," she said. "You get in your room and you stay there."

Eventually, they learned that they were approved to live in one of FEMA's fully furnished, single-wide mobile homes. Instead of placing it on their Hood Drive property, they decided to add it to a property they own along Ash Street in Goldsboro.

They were able to move in on Dec. 21.

"(It was) the Wednesday before Christmas," she said. "So, we spent Christmas here. We've got this mobile home here for 18 months. But, we'll be through with it before then."

The couple plans to build a new 2,100-square-foot home in Garden Walk, off Country Day Road, which should be finished by the summer.

The Suttons plan to use money they receive from their insurance claims to help pay for the house. They also plan to seek a Hazard Mitigation Program buyout for their Hood Drive home.

"What we're going to do is use what we get to help us with this house we're building in Garden Walk," he said. "We're looking forward to having another house."

Because their home flooded twice from the 1999 and 2016 hurricanes, they believe their chances are high for a buyout.

They've already been told by a FEMA representative that they qualify, after more than 50 percent of their property sustained significant damage.

Even though the changes appear to be working out, leaving their home after nearly four decades is difficult.

"When we go back out there, it's heartbreaking," she said. "It's not home. It's home, but it's not home. And then we have to come back to this, which is wonderful considering what we left (at the Day's Inn) for five weeks."

Their home on Hood Drive has been gutted by three volunteer groups that helped remove items from the house, ripped out damaged walls, flooring and heating and air conditioning ductwork.

They were helped by a group of Mormons, members of their church, First Presbyterian, and the N.C. Baptist Men. Others helped remove the damaged items from their property and they had their house power washed, in preparation for an appraisal.

"There's no walls, no anything in our house now," she said. "All the floors are gone, everything. They were torn out. You have to tear all that stuff out when it's flooded."

Even though they've experienced the loss from two natural disasters, the Suttons consider themselves fortunate.

"We are very blessed," she said. "We were not hurt. We are safe, and we are OK. We're healthy --not wealthy -- but we're wise."

The Suttons join a growing list of area residents living in mobile homes provided by FEMA. Wayne County has inspected six mobile homes at sites on Hood Drive, Weaver Road, Old Smithfield Road, N.C. 581 North and Zion Church Road, according to county inspection records.

"What they are doing in the county is trying to put these housing units on their properties," said Steve Stroud, director of the Wayne County inspections department.

The city of Goldsboro has also inspected and approved two mobile homes, including the Suttons on Ash Street and another on Vann Street. A third is planned in the city on Glenhaven Lane, said Allen Anderson Jr., Goldsboro chief building inspector.

More mobile homes could be approved and set up in the county, said Mike Wade, FEMA spokesperson.

Families and individuals are considered for the temporary housing during the regular FEMA application process.

FEMA's temporary housing assistance has also included providing funding for area residents to live in hotels and motels. Currently, 112 Wayne County households are staying at hotels through the FEMA program, Wade said.