01/11/17 — 90 days later, Part VI: Waiting in recovery

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90 days later, Part VI: Waiting in recovery

By Melinda Harrell
Published in News on January 11, 2017 10:03 AM

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Betty Wellington, left, and Michael Wellington pose for a photograph in their home on Bunche Drive, holding a condemnation sign that was placed on their door after Hurricane Matthew.

Betty Wellington does not know if she will be able to stay in Goldsboro.

After Hurricane Matthew swept through Wayne County in October of last year, her home on Bunche Drive was condemned.

The floodwaters reached as high as her front door, destroying her heating and conditioning system.

The insulation in her home had to be completely removed and her roof is still in need of repair.

At the age of 65, Mrs. Wellington works part-time and her husband, Michael, is a disabled veteran, having had a knee replacement, hip replacement, stroke and recovering from a battle with pancreatic cancer that nearly killed him. Mrs. Wellington said his doctor, in a heavy German accent, calls Michael a "walking dead man" because of the nearly impossible circumstances he overcame.

She said he isn't able to do very much.

They are left in a situation where they must find a way to live in the circumstances they have been dealt for now.

Although she and her husband are able to live in their home now, the costly repairs still weigh heavily on her mind.

And where the money for those repairs will come from is still an unknown factor.

"The roof is in pretty bad shape," she said sitting in a small room in the back of her house with a small space heater warding off the January cold.

"The heating and air conditioning unit got flooded out. So we don't have any heat except for a couple little floor heaters. So we are not able to use our heat because we don't have a system. The insulation under the house was really wet. Thankfully, they had volunteers come out and they took out all the insulation under the house because they said we would really get sick because of mold. We don't have the finances to get any of this work done, the insulation, the roof or the air conditioner. We haven't had the funds to do so."

She sought help from her insurance provider but was rejected twice.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did offer her some assistance to replace food and flooring that they lost.

She said to replace the HVAC system could cost up to $10,000. One estimate to replace the roof was in the ballpark of $4,000 while she said someone else told her it could cost up to $20,000.

"So it can be very expensive, those kinds of difficult problems, and at the same time we can't pay out of pocket for it," she said.

"I wish we did have the money, but we don't. I don't know if it is going to be a situation where we are just going to have to leave. It is something that we try to deal with each and every day. I am always hopeful."

She said she intends to appeal her case to FEMA.

She said she is now waiting for a contractor to become available to come out and look at the damages.

"I called a couple of contractors, and they were so busy," she said.

"My next project is to try to get a contractor out. FEMA told us that we could appeal it, but if we appealed it, we would need a contractor come out and get them to make a list of everything that is wrong in the house and outside the house."

She put her and Michael's name on the list for people interested in the property buy-out program, also called the Hazard Mitigation Program, but she has yet to go through the application process.

"At that time, I was worried, I was anxious," she said about why she has interest in the program.

"There was so much work that needs to be done, and we don't have the money. You know, it is just me and my husband now, and I thought maybe we could get a little small place, and we won't have to worry about a lot."

What prevents her from filling out the application is a reticence to leave a place she has called home since the early 90s.

"I don't want to leave the house," she said.

"I don't want to leave our home. This is our first and only home that we tried to buy. I don't want to leave."


Viola Ryals-Figueroa is staying in a spacious house only miles away from Lane Tree Golf Course, but that house is not her home.

A realtor sign sits on the lawn of the house indicating it is on the market, and the idea that the house could be sold at any time leaves her with worries.

The flooding from Hurricane Matthew came up to 3 feet in her home leaving it 85 percent destroyed and leaving her and her family displaced.

They evacuated during the hurricane to return to find a condemned sign on their home.

Once she was permitted back to her home to make repairs the process with filing for assistance from FEMA began.

"I submitted a form, basically stating, what do you want to do with your property. Do you want to raise it up to flood elevation? Do you want to sell it out? Those were the two options. We, of course, would like to see if it can be raised. But you are talking about a 60-year-old home that is cinder block, so once they go to try to lift it, it could completely fall apart,"she said.

She and her family remain in a holding pattern, waiting to find out when they will be given a mobile living unit from FEMA, waiting to see how much help they will get from the insurance company or FEMA to recover and rebuild, waiting to see if the house they live in now will be sold.

"I don't know what the next step is," she said.

"(The state) got millions now, what are you going to do with the money? When is it going to trickle down to the people that don't have? We are still trying to come up with money to just be able to survive. Living here is great . We are grateful. We are just trying to get some form of normal. Right now, we are just waiting."