Saunders: Storm victims face hurdles to help

Staff WriterApril 26, 2011 

  • Two community organizations are available to Wake County homeowners who need help patching roofs, removing trees or getting rid of debris caused by the recent tornadoes.

    For assistance, homeowners who live northeast of New Hope Road in Raleigh can call 266-6333 or register online at .

    Homeowners can also go to the staging area for Samaritan's Purse at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, 3329 Forestville Road, today or Wednesday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

    Homeowners southwest of New Hope Road can receive assistance from N.C. Baptist Men by calling the City of Raleigh Community Services Department at 996-6100 or registering online at .

    Work crews from the city and the N.C. Department of Transportation can remove vegetative debris only if it has been taken to the curb or roadside. Construction material should not be mixed with vegetative debris; it will not be collected.

    For more information about storm recovery in Raleigh, go to the city's website at For more information on storm recovery throughout Wake County, go to

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster recovery centers are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week at the following addresses.

    In the Triangle

    Johnston County

    The Herald Building

    125 S. Fourth St.

    Smithfield, NC 27577

    Wake County

    Chavis Heights Community


    505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

    Raleigh, NC 27601


    Bertie County

    Colerain Community Building

    106 W. Academy St.

    Colerain, NC 27924

    Bladen County

    Powell-Melvin Agricultural


    450 Smith Circle

    Elizabethtown, NC 28337

    Cumberland County

    Department of Social Services

    1st Floor Conference Room D

    1225 Ramsey St

    Fayetteville, NC 28301

    Greene County

    Fire Station

    201 Carolina Drive

    Snow Hill, NC 28580

    Harnett County

    East Pointe Village Shopping


    1165 E. Cumberland St., Suite 106

    Dunn, NC 28334

    Lee County

    McSwain Agricultural Center

    2420 Tramway Road

    Sanford, NC 27332

— Hey, wait a minute. How'd this happen?

Maize Lewis went to a wedding in Charlotte two Saturdays ago, yet she's the one stuck with a guest who won't leave her Raleigh home.

I reckon it's kind of hard to throw out an intruder who weighs a couple of tons.

The unwelcome guest is a huge oak tree that smashed through her home's roof when a tornado struck in her North King Charles Road neighborhood on April 16. "Luckily, I was out of town when it struck, or I would've been home alone."

Lewis doesn't drive, so her friend Elizabeth Clarkson was driving her to different sites Monday seeking help. Clarkson's home suffered no damage, although she lost about $100 worth of food when her power was knocked out by falling trees. "I hadn't bought groceries yet, thank goodness," Clarkson said when I talked to Lewis and her Monday at the Chavis Heights Community Center, where FEMA has set up to provide assistance to people harmed by the storms.

Clarkson was out of luck, though.FEMA isn't paying to replace lost victuals - "We're sending them to the state for that," said Jean Podruchny, manager of FEMA's disaster recovery center. Lewis said she was told, "It'll be about three weeks before we know if they can help us. ... We went to the Salvation Army, but they said they couldn't help us without a referral from the Red Cross. We've had some hurdles, and more hurdles. Now, how about some help?"

When I went to the recovery center, I braced myself for long lines and chaos. I was surprised to find neither.

Podruchny is surprised at the absence of lines, too. "There was a lot of devastation. Maybe people are still cleaning up," she explained. "I think the word has gotten out. I thought there'd be a long line when I got here this morning."

Since the office opened Friday, she said, officials have seen about 170 people.

Although there hasn't been the deluge for assistance that she anticipated, Podruchny said, "I feel we're going to start getting busier."

It's probably a good thing there hasn't been more of a crowd because Podruchny said it's better for people seeking help to phone first. "They need to call 800-621-3362 and register. An inspector comes out" and lets homeowners or renters know what assistance they're eligible for.

Unlike Lewis, whose home is uninhabitable because of the tree that dropped in, Jessie Williamson is able to live in her Pender Street home - "with prayer," she said.

A reverent petition to the Almighty is necessary because neither the insurance company nor FEMA will help her with a huge tree that was partially ripped from the ground.

She fears it may not be long before the tree falls and damages her house. It is hanging "directly over the center of the house" like some 50-foot Sword of Damocles ready to drop at any minute.

Williamson has called tree removal companies, she said, "but everybody wants $7,000 to take it down. I don't have $7,000."

So she and her family are staying in the house. "I'm keeping the faith," she said. or 919-836-2811

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