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‘We’re pleading’ with North Carolina lawmakers for help with flood repairs

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KTVZ

By Caitlyn Penter

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    BUNCOMBE COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Buncombe County EMS Director Taylor Jones said there are potentially hundreds of damaged roads and bridges that still haven’t been fully repaired as the area continues to recover from flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred in August.

“Most of these are private bridges, private culverts, private roads, so people are still struggling to get access back to their homes,” Jones said.

Buncombe County officials inspected the Lindon Cove Crossing area in Candler on Friday. They looked at the damage and debris left over near the river banks.

People who live in the Lindon Cove Crossing community are asking for FEMA to help pay for a new bridge after the original bridge washed out during Fred.

FEMA told News 13 on Friday the ownership of the bridge is being reviewed by Buncombe County and state officials. A FEMA spokesperson said individual assistance claims submitted by residents in that neighborhood are also under review. It’s a frustrating wait that, according to county officials, is not unique.

“We’re really pleading with the state legislature to give us some help so we can help those people,” Jones said.

Jones said when Fred came through, the county initially had more than 400 reports of damaged or destroyed private bridges, culverts and roads.

Jones said, since then, people have built temporary fixes that are not safe. But, for many, that’s all they can afford.

“People are struggling in the pandemic. They don’t have the funds they used to,” Jones said.

Emergency response is a big concern with the temporary fixes, because bridges like the one in Lindon Cove Crossing can’t hold larger emergency vehicles.

In Haywood County, there are four state bridges that are not at full capacity, causing modifications to emergency response. A spokesperson from Haywood County said, “There have not been any interruptions to service or significant challenges due to ongoing repairs from an emergency response perspective.”

Gas trucks also can’t get across in some of these situations.

“We’re going into the winter months and people can’t get heating oil, they can’t get propane,” Jones said.

After the 2004 floods, state lawmakers passed funding to go to private residents and help with recovery. Jones hopes that will happen now, especially as people are getting denied by FEMA.

“My fear is that people are going to receive those letters and see the words ineligible or denied and just stop reading and think that’s the end of the road when that’s not the case,” said Angie Ledford, emergency management division manager for Buncombe County.

County officials are urging people to appeal their FEMA denials. You can appeal up to 60 days after getting the denial letter from FEMA.

County officials said if you’re also denied for an SBA loan that you can go back to FEMA and access resources that way.

Rep. Brian Turner told News 13 that lawmakers are working on funding. He said he hopes that funding will be passed before Thanksgiving. He said, up until now, lawmakers have been waiting to see what the federal response would be.

Jones said, looking further down the road, he’s concerned about what the flooding has done to the river.

“Places typically near rivers and streams that hadn’t flooded in the past may flood in the future,” Jones said.

Ledford, who was working for the county during the 2004 floods, said it took about two or three years to fully recover from those floods. Officials expect the same recovery time for the recent floods.

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