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The Daily Tar Heel

Wilmington and New Bern student families struggle after Florence

hurricane florence cutting

Nearly a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall on the Carolinas, the pervasive effects of flooding and destroyed property is not something UNC students hailing from Wilmington and New Bern have the luxury of forgetting.

“It’s just a different world when you go home. When people are asking me how my family is, there’s this stark contrast between what’s going on here and what’s going on at home,” said Jackson Seymore, UNC student and lifelong resident of New Bern, North Carolina.

Seymore’s family home evaded serious damage, however, several vehicles were irreparably damaged when their garage flooded. He plans to return home on Friday, Sept. 21, with donations he has collected from the UNC community throughout the past week for disaster relief in New Bern. 

Still, Seymore counts his family’s case as “one of the fortunate ones.” 

“Right now UNC just feels so normal, you know," Seymore said. "Everything here is okay, even-paced. It looks like barely a wind passed through here. When you go home, you just see houses torn up. There are trees and limbs lying around, and there’s still water downtown. Boats are just littered across New Bern."

Following a week of general unsettlement, some students are only now regaining a sense of calm concerning how their homes and families fared during Florence. Jenna Dunsmore, a UNC student whose family lives near Wilmington recalls her unease over her parents who chose not to evacuate prior to the storm. 

Dunsmore says that she feels better presently than she did a couple of days ago when she was anxious about her father being stuck at work. "He works for Duke Energy," said Dunsmore. "He goes in during hurricanes, and stays there at work. This time the flooding was so bad that he was released from work, but he wasn’t able to come home because he couldn’t drive home."

Dunsmore’s father was eventually transported home from Southport via a ferry and rental van. 

Wanda Dunsmore, Jenna’s mother who weathered Florence in her home in Leland, approximately 25 minutes away from Wilmington, remarked disaster relief often comes several days after it is needed and can be short-lived.

Despite the negative ramifications of Florence for cities like New Bern and Wilmington, student support at UNC for disaster relief has been galvanized in the wake of the storm, especially from those who call it home. This population includes Nate Polo, a junior who was raised in New Bern.

“I’ve imagined a future there," Polo said. "And just as soon as I was all ‘gung ho’ about New Bern, this happens. So I feel specifically primed for this mission.”

Polo has begun planning for a student organization which would mobilize teams of students to aid in community rebuilding efforts in eastern North Carolina during weekends. Polo believes relief efforts should be more equitable across affected areas.

“We kind of owe it to our hometowns, owe it to the communities that raised us to join in the rebuilding effort,” said Polo.


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