City of Wilmington collects $633K in FEMA reimbursements for Hurricane Florence

A fallen tree on 15th Street in the Carolina Place neighborhood east of downtown Wilmington during the calm between the inner bands of Hurricane Florence Friday morning. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
A fallen tree on 15th Street in the Carolina Place neighborhood east of downtown Wilmington during the calm between the inner bands of Hurricane Florence. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON – When Hurricane Florence made landfall in September 2018, the historic and deadly storm cost the City of Wilmington an estimated $33.2 million. Two and half years later, the city has received several reimbursements from FEMA for its destruction. This week two more came in totaling $633,433.

Florence was one of the most damaging hurricanes in Wilmington’s history. City staff spent months identifying all areas in need of restoration. “The city continues to make repairs and will continue to incur costs,” city spokesperson Jennifer Dandron said in an email.

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One of the two recent FEMA reimbursement provides the city $400,428 for debris pick up. Starting four days after landfall and continuing through January 2019, about 1.4 million cubic yards of debris were removed. The city’s bill topped $22.6 million. To date, the city has received $17.5 million back and is still awaiting $5.1 million in repayments.

The second reimbursement from FEMA has provided the city the last of funds needed – $233,004 – to cover the cost of emergency protective measures. These include actions taken to protect property and human lives before, during and after the storm. A total of $965,828 was spent on efforts such as searches and rescues, sandbagging, detour and warning signs, and the emergency operations center activation.

To date, the city has accepted $19.4 million from FEMA and $622,000 from insurance coverage. It still anticipates an estimated $13.2 million to come through for eligible expenses but has yet to receive approval from N.C. Emergency Management and FEMA.

“This city is resilient and has very dedicated employees who have been working diligently from day one to make sure the city is able to receive reimbursement for all storm-related damages and can replace the funds used from our fund balance,” Jennifer Maready, the city’s finance director, said in a statement. “The city maintains very strong financial management that aides in the response and recovery of events like this.”

To date, the city is still repairing some damaged facilities and drainage issues stemming from Hurricane Florence. Although the majority of projects have been completed, work is expected to continue for another two years.

In 2020 the city made progress on several projects, including $50,000 repairs to the Kenan Fountain at 5th and Market streets and a $1.37-million rehabilitation of River Road, which the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority contributed to.

It also addressed more than 65 pipes along city streets that caved in from heavy rains and improved city hall’s metal roof. The roof, which was already prone to leaks, was treated over the summer with a protective coating that should prevent water from entering in the future.

In the years since Florence, the city has endured two more Category 1 disasters and the pandemic. Spending for Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 reached $192,000. So far Wilmington has received $141,000 in reimbursements. Hurricane Isaias in August 2020 required $3.8 million and the city has not received any money back yet, according to Dandron.


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