“My Place” is a series of blog posts authored by the Counter Tools team that aims to shed light on the impact place has had on each of our lives. In this My Place post, we hear from Business Manager, Beth Turner.
A recent Medium piece, North Carolina’s Problem Isn’t Florence, It’s Poverty, spoke to me. The clean-up and aftermath of Hurricane Florence reveals the significant truth in this title. People don’t get out of harm’s way because they usually cannot afford the cost of leaving. As the article states, there is not enough gas in the car and the possibility of losing one’s employment fleeing a storm is real.
Operation AirDrop is an organization of volunteer pilots flying necessary supplies to flooded, storm-affected areas where access by road is completely cut off. They step in before FEMA gets to these areas, so the timing is critical, as people are often in life-threatening situations. An ad hoc chapter formed quickly after the storm, based out of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Thousands of pounds of supplies were flown to Eastern NC over the course of five days.
I volunteered at RDU on day two of the effort. It was a busy scene with loads of supplies being dropped off, getting them on planes, and coordinating pilots’ flights to any accessible airport. I jumped in helping with administrative duties, and fielding calls from people down east who were coordinating efforts to get supplies delivered. It was intense to answer calls knowing that the person on the other side had been without basic things like food and water for days, and desperate for help.
I brought this up at a Counter Tools team meeting, prompting a blog entry for our series “My Place.” My childhood was spent in the farmlands around Kinston, NC. Kinston spent years trying to figure out how to recover from the bust of the tobacco industry, and poverty remains an issue for a majority of people there. Kinston experienced major flooding with Florence, again, as it did just a few years ago when Hurricane Matthew hit. They can’t get a break down east.
We see the headlines every time a major storm hits: “This hurricane will be the costliest ever,” and with each major storm that hits, the damage in dollars rises exponentially. Fran was the costliest, Matthew was the costliest, now Florence, and so on. With poverty in North Carolina, the cost is paid by the vulnerable populations who live in places that often take direct hits from storms like Florence.
Counter Tools’ work is focused on place. Your zip code matters, and the zip codes in Eastern North Carolina include the poorest places in the state. Local legislation and policy change matter. Going forward, I hope that decision makers on the ground down east make better decisions to protect their fellow citizens and create opportunities for better jobs and healthier places to live.
Between writing and publishing this post, Hurricane Matthew tore through NC. We wish our affected client-partners all the best with recovery efforts.