Some North Carolina Families Frustrated with Storm Response

May 23, 2011

Hundreds of homeowners in Fayetteville, North Carolina say they are frustrated waiting for repairs more than a month after tornadoes ripped through the state.

Dyana Sabino told The Fayetteville Observer that she and her mother are living in just one portion of their home because the rooms are leaking and the house needs to be rewired. She waited nearly two weeks for her insurance company’s adjuster. Now, she is waiting on a contractor.

“A normal day like this is OK,” she said Friday. “But when it’s raining, it’s a lot harder. Water will get in the house, and I have to dump it. I’m worried about electrical wires. I don’t sleep at night when it rains.”

The city of Fayetteville said 287 homes were destroyed by the April 16 storms, more than 300 had major damage and another 350 had minor damage.

Tom Culver, senior estimator with Showcase Restoration, said the city just doesn’t have the resources to handle all the repairs at once.

“Contractors and insurance companies were not prepared to handle this volume of work,” Culver said. “Not on such a grand scale.”

Showcase is rebuilding 191 structures, mostly in Fayetteville. Getting payments is difficult, in part because of a state law that requires contractors and insurance companies to work with mortgage companies on homes with $10,000 worth of damage or more.

“We have to send the checks to the mortgage company and fill out all their paperwork,” he said. “Sometimes, we can be three months into a job before we get paid.”

Without payment, Culver said, contractors can’t pay their workers or buy materials.

“To put it into perspective, we spent $100,000 on tarps in the first week,” he said. “You can’t do $10 million worth of jobs with no money coming in.”

Some residents worry that the delay in getting repairs made could mean more damage.

Gus McGrue II is waiting on his insurance company, which wants to use its own contractors to fix his damage. Meanwhile, he and his wife have been living elsewhere.

“We’ve been out of our home for over a month now, because of trees that are in danger of falling on the house,” he said. “The insurance company wants to pay $500 for all six trees to be removed, which leaves us stuck with the rest out of pocket.”

Debbie Powell rents her home. She said some repairs to her home have been completed, but a side door hasn’t been replaced and the attic needs to be fixed. Tarps cover her roof and duct tape still covers a window in her son’s room.

“It’s taking so long,” Powell said.

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