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Looking at Lumberton after two hurricanes in two years

There was a lot of good journalism over the Thanksgiving break — and most of us are just catching up on it this week, if we’re lucky.

As you get caught up, make time to read this recent piece on the town of Lumberton and its struggle with two major hurricanes in two years. Written by Lumberton’s own Jack Frederick for the UNC Media Hub, it takes a deep and personal look at the struggles of that low income community, from which Policy Watch also reported in the aftermath of the most recent storm.

From the piece:

Max Bergstresser was firm in his decision to stay in Lumberton after the first hurricane hit his hometown.

Even when many of his neighbors abandoned their houses instead of returning, it seemed obvious that he’d repair and rebuild. Growing up in Mayfair, a neighborhood on the north side of town, he loves this community.

When he had a family of his own, he set his sights on moving back to the community, and in 2011, he moved into a one-story house one property down from where his parents live.

But something changed in him — or maybe around him — the second time a hurricane came around.

“We’re planning for the future as far as that goes,” Bergstresser said. “That weighs into our minds because fool me once shame on you. You know the rest of it, right? Fool me twice, shame on me.”

In the two months since Florence struck, they decided they want to sell their house and move away. With a swamp behind their backyard, it isn’t an ideal place to live in light of recent years, even with good neighbors and family all around them.

Bergstresser and his wife, Natalie, want to look out for their daughter, Eden. Now 5 years old, she is becoming more aware of her surroundings, and they don’t want her to fear the weather. On top of it, all they haven’t received much help to repair their property, even after paying flood insurance for years.

“Being the parents of a small child, we don’t want her to have to go through this time and time again if nothing is going to be fixed by our city,” Natalie Bergstresser said. “Max and I decided we’ll go somewhere where we can get our money’s worth, and she won’t have to worry about possibly having to redo a house every few years.”

After Florence, the heating and air system in their house stopped working. They’ll need a brand new HVAC unit because their old one flooded, but FEMA denied their application for assistance. An appeal will take months to process, so they’re preparing to ride into a cold winter without heat.

“FEMA was the thing that really gets under our skin the most,” Max Bergstresser said. “We pay flood insurance, almost $200 a month on top of a mortgage, and they denied us our claim this time.”

Read the whole thing here.

One Comment


  1. Jack Frederick

    December 5, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Hi, Joe. I just discovered that you shared my piece and I just wanted to thank you. This story was an important one for me to tell, so to have you share it with your audience means a lot. Thanks, Jack Frederick

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