Coming Back Stronger
Discussing Florence with Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams.
In the wake of Hurricane Florence, Brunswick County’s leaders are focusing all efforts on the area’s recovery and restoration. The slow-moving storm’s record rainfall left much of the county flooded and isolated, challenges that Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams says were unforeseeable.
“The flooding after the storm essentially cut this county into three separate islands, and you couldn’t get back and forth from one to the other,” he says. “Supplies, groceries and gasoline were hard to come by. Our staff, the sheriff’s office, first responders and police department did a tremendous job of trying to plan for this, but you can’t plan for the unprecedented.”
Now that the flooding has receded, Williams says the county is in damage assessment mode. A top priority is evaluating how to assist the many residents left without flood insurance because their homes were not in a floodplain. Another goal is continuing to organize and utilize the many volunteer efforts that have poured into the county.
“I’ve been amazed at the nonprofits and other faith-based groups that have been here trying to help people impacted by the storm,” Williams says. “I’ve met volunteers from as far as Canada and Israel. That’s just amazing to see.”
Williams gives credit to Brunswick Family Assistance for helping manage the outpouring of support from near and far. The organization has stepped in to coordinate the numerous volunteer relief efforts, which is no easy task.
“One thing we’ve learned for the next time is to set up a person or entity that will coordinate all of our other volunteer partners and make sure all the nonprofits are working together,” Williams says. “Another thing would be knowing ahead of time what donations we can and cannot use and how we want them processed. It’s a great thing that people want to help, but they need to know what we need.”
Williams acknowledges that the recovery process will take time. Although there’s no quick fix for Florence’s aftermath, residents should know that their town and county leaders will continue to dedicate their efforts to restoration for as long as it takes. “It’s the single most important thing I’ve dealt with since becoming a county commissioner. Long after the national media moves on to whatever else they want to talk about, your local leaders will be still be focused on this. We’re going to continue pushing to get our county not only back to where it was, but stronger than it was.
“If you weren’t impacted by the storm, find a way to help those that were. There’s only so much the government can do, but what will really get us through this is people helping people.”