Disaster recovery center draws 35

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2018

FEMA visits Polk twice to assess storm damage

TRYON — It has been almost a month since disaster struck, and the clean up and recovery continues as Polk County tries to get the flooding and mudslides declared a federal emergency.

A disaster recovery center was held on Saturday, with approximately 35 affected residents attending.

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Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said the event was successful, with many residents asking how to get help with storm cleanup and with the FEMA process for federal funding.

The North Carolina Emergency Management team has visited Polk County disaster areas every week, Pittman said, and FEMA representatives have visited two times so far to assess the damage.

“The Baptist Men are working really hard,” Pittman said. “The volunteer organizations all have heavy equipment and are able to help many of the victims.”

Saturday’s disaster center was the second set up by the county to help victims and answer questions. Saturday’s center was at the Polk County Library in Columbus, and had representatives from Polk County, the American Red Cross, North Carolina Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry and other local agencies.

The mudslides and flooding occurred in Polk County three weeks ago, when the area received more than 20 inches of rain over a 15-day period. Much of the damaged area was in the Pacolet Valley area of Tryon along U.S. 176.

There were three lives taken during the disaster. Patricia Case, of Tryon, died at her home in a mudslide on May 18, and Mike McCormick and Aaron Smeltzer, of South Carolina, died while doing a news report in the area on May 28 when a tree fell and hit their vehicle on 176.

Pittman said the list of affected properties continues to grow, and, in some areas, the county has not yet assessed damage. He said he plans to go out this week to assess damage at Lake Adger.

So far, Pittman said more than 130 properties were affected by the disaster.

Polk County Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge said last week that 57 homes were damaged, including five that were completely destroyed.

Gov. Roy Cooper recently declared a state of emergency for Polk County.

Pittman said in order to be declared a federal emergency for FEMA assistance, there has to be 25 homes destroyed or more than 40 percent of an area damaged.

The county continues to reach out to residents in need.

“We are compiling a resource list right now that will be available for folks based on whatever need they have,” Pittman said. 

Pittman also said people should understand the FEMA process is a long one.

“We’re just doing our best to make sure the people of the county are kept up to date and protected through the whole thing,” Pittman said. “I don’t want to lose sight of the people who have been suffering since the beginning and are continuing to suffer.”

Organizations are taking donations for the recovery efforts for Polk County victims. Donations can be sent locally to Thermal Belt Outreach; and to the American Red Cross and the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry.