Updated at 2:05 p.m.
RALEIGH — Hurricane Dorian did not cause enough damage in North Carolina — including on Ocracoke Island — for residents in affected areas to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual Assistance program, FEMA told Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday.
Tom Pahl, who lives on Ocrocoke and represents the island on the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, said residents there are mystified by the government's decision.
"It's hard to understand," he said in a phone interview with The News & Observer on Wednesday morning. "Everyone is disappointed, as you might imagine. The justification in the letter is that the damage is not severe enough.
"It sure feels severe enough to the people here whose homes are being bulldozed or are uninhabitable," Pahl said. "If this is not severe enough, we're wondering, what is it going to take?"
Pahl said village leaders would meet today and talk with state and federal officials about what their next step will be.
Floodwaters from Hurricane Dorian in September unexpectedly inundated much of the inhabited part of Ocrocoke at what are believed to be record levels. Immediately after the flooding, electrical inspectors went to all the homes on the island and pulled the meters on 415 houses, because the meters had been inundated with water. The island has a total of about 1,200 homes.
Pahl said that most of the flooded homes were the older, lower-lying ones on the island that tend to be occupied by full-time residents. The flooding left more than 400 full-time residents displaced.
"I'm proud to report that we don't have anyone living in cars or tent cities," Pahl said. "All 400 of those people have been taken in by friends or family."
But they need help rebuilding their homes, he said, and they were counting on some of that aid coming from FEMA's Individual Assistance program, which provides grants and low-interest loans to help uninsured disaster victims get back into housing that is "safe, sanitary and secure."
Pahl said permits have been issued for the demolition of seven homes in the village so far, and others have been requested. Videos and photos on social media chronicling the damage and the cleanup show house after house being stripped out and piles of their former furnishings, appliances and structural elements dragged to the street.
In a prepared statement, Ford Porter, a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper, said, "This is disappointing news for families who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian and still need help. The Governor will continue to work with our federal and state partners and North Carolina's congressional delegation to determine a path forward to deliver assistance to those who need it."
According to Cooper's initial request, Dorian damaged 2,001 buildings across the four counties where individual assistance was requested, with the majority of damage happening on the Outer Banks. In Dare County, 1,205 homes were impacted by the storm
News of the denial first began trickling out late Tuesday night, when state Sen. Bob Steinburg, an Edenton Republican, posted a photo of FEMA's letter to his Facebook page.
Cooper has 30 days to appeal the denial, according to FEMA's letter. Porter said the Governor's office is evaluating options regarding an appeal.
This story was produced with financial support from Report for America/GroundTruth Project, the North Carolina Community Foundation and the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund. The News & Observer maintains full editorial control of the work.
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RALEIGH — North Carolina's governor says the federal government has denied individual assistance for residents in four counties hit by Hurricane Dorian.
Gov. Roy Cooper had sought the federal help for households in Carteret, Dare, Hyde, and New Hanover counties. He said the assistance would have included funds for temporary housing, repairs and storm damage.
But his office released a letter from FEMA dated Tuesday denying the individual assistance request. The letter signed by FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard said that joint federal and local assessments determined the impact to households didn't warrant the individual assistance. The denial can be appealed.
The letter notes that other federal funds for public assistance and hazard mitigation were approved.
Cooper's office issued a statement saying the decision is disappointing for families who still need help.