Over this past week, I have been devastated by the images and stories coming from the eastern part of North Carolina. Hurricane Matthew has dealt a significant blow to that part of our state. The thoughts of the entire staff at Triangle J Council of Governments are with those impacted by the Hurricane.
As the waters began to rise, I was reminded of a similar troubling catastrophe during my first job out of graduate school with the City of Goldsboro. I had only been in Goldsboro for about three months when Hurricane Floyd brought record flooding to Goldsboro and Wayne County. Over the next three years, a vast majority of my job was to work on the response and recovery programs implemented as a result of the historic flooding. It pains me to see the same people and communities impacted once again.
Although Hurricane Floyd was a terrible event, it provided me some valuable memories of people lending a helping hand. The first, and most important, was witnessing the community come together in a time of crisis. It showed me that institutions and structures function best when people within the community commit to their success. The dedication and determination of City of Goldsboro staff who worked and worked and worked to help their community during the initial response, and then during the much longer recovery period, was truly inspiring. I got to work with a wonderful Mayor and City Council who made resources available, without the promise of reimbursement, to allow the community to recover as quickly as possible. Elected officials rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside city staff to help with response and recovery efforts – it was part of what confirmed for me that I had chosen a career that was really challenging, but also immensely rewarding.
It became apparent to me very quickly that those impacted the most from Hurricane Floyd were individuals and families with limited means. I was struck by the fact that our poorest neighbors lived in the flood plains because it was the cheapest land and unfortunately lowest quality housing which made it the most affordable place to live. I can honestly say that witnessing the human impact of Hurricane Floyd taught me as more about public service than the time I spent in graduate school.
From my own experience, I know that Hurricane Matthew’s flood waters will recede in the next few days, but the impacts will last for decades. Sadly, the region’s recovery from Floyd was final only a short number of years ago. Now many of the same people are once again dealing with complete loss. However, the lessons I learned during Floyd give me tremendous faith that the residents in eastern North Carolina have the will and the community strength to overcome this event and become even stronger.
Several of our member governments, particularly in Johnston County, were hit pretty hard by Hurricane Matthew. Additionally, our COGs in the east have been affected. Employees with the Lumber River and Upper Coastal Plan COG have been impacted personally. I am sure employees with Mid-Carolina, Cape Fear and Eastern Carolina COG have also been impacted.
Triangle J COG and other COGs across North Carolina have offered assistance to our member governments and the COGs in the east and will continue to do so as long as there is a need. We are working with US EDA right now to identify damage to public facilities in the event that US EDA is able to offer any assistance. On a positive note, even though Triangle J Council of Governments is not a designated Economic Development District (EDD), EDA is allowing us to be part of the conversation since we have indicated our intent to form and EDD.
We will continue to monitor developments and offer assistance to our members and other regions of North Carolina as we are able. The North Carolina Association of Regional Councils (NCARD) has set up an account to financially assist COG employees in the east who have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew. If you would like to contribute, feel free to make a check out to NCARD and send to me here at TJCOG. I will make sure it gets to the State Association to help our fellow COG employees impacted by the disaster. Once again, my thoughts go to those fighting to overcome this event and the strong communities supporting them.