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Surviving Hurricane Florence and a Tornado

Helping the Najarians of Havelock, NC Recover from Florence

Sometimes Team Rubicon comes to the rescue and the homeowners we have come to serve don’t know who we are or how we found them.  Such was the case with retired couple George and Dorothy Najarian, of Havelock, North Carolina. An Operation Silver Sun sawyer team arrived at the Najarian’s residence on the morning of September 21, much to the homeowners’ surprise.

More than three dozen trees, mostly Norfolk pines, had cracked and fell during Hurricane Florence. Dorothy said, “We saw the damage from Hurricane Irene and expected to have downed trees but this is unbelievable.” An employee from the power company told the Najarians that the felled trees were not caused by the 140+ mph winds nor the record rainfall, but a tornado that happened during the hurricane which blew through their property on the Neuse River.

 

 

At first, the Najarians couldn’t even drive down their long sandy driveway to assess damage because of all of the felled trees. Then the friend, with whom they’ve been staying, brought a chain saw to cut a small car path through the pines. What they found when they finally got to the their home of 10 years and its outbuildings was massive devastation. Part of the roof had blown off and water saturated the second floor ceiling until it caved in two bedrooms. Water soaked the upstairs carpet, ruined one bed, warped artwork on the walls over at least half the house, soaked the runners on the stairwell and destroyed the downstairs wood floors. A tree also fell on one side of their barn, crushing the roof.

Years of books and magazines, Dorothy’s quilting supplies and her quilts, and an array of furniture pieces were saturated and ruined. The master bed had been covered in plastic sheeting before the Narjarians evacuated in case the windows blew in so the bed was saved, and two antique dressers somehow survived.

 

The Narjarian’s bedroom after Hurricane Florence blew in their windows.

 

Dorothy said, “We feel bad but everyone was safe. And everyone, like the power company, is working as hard as they can.” They had called their insurance company and two flood restoration specialists and left messages, but had not heard back from anyone yet.

George said, “This isn’t our first disaster. We had a fire 25 years ago and lost everything.” So they understand that recovery becomes a process and takes time. But the couple also needs some help. They asked the Team Rubicon sawyer team if, once they get done with the trees, would they help tarp the roof, since rain is expected again soon.

Bob McKay, Operation Silver Sun sawyer team lead, promised the couple that they would, and he then conducted an under the house assessment to see if their crawl space had standing water or any problems, before completing an assessment of their whole house. McKay said they would help them demolish the wood floors and do some other necessary work that was making the house in unlivable condition. The homeowners also asked if TR could help load the movable storage POD when it arrived on October 2, since they couldn’t lift and carry everything themselves.  McKay said he would make sure TR would be there.

 

Bob, TR Greyshirt, conducting an initial damage assessment of the Najarian’s home.

 

The Najarians asked a number of questions about how Team Rubicon started and what kinds of services it performs. “You showing up here is a miracle,” Dorothy said. “We had never heard of you, and yet here you are.” They took a photo of the four Greyshirts and sent it to their neighbor who is a local reporter, and they asked how their friends could get in touch if they needed Team Rubicon. McKay gave them the Crisis Command phone number (Request assistance if needed by calling 1-800-451-1954 or 828-222-3975) to pass along to anyone in need because of Hurricane Florence.

And then as part of the team was leaving for the day, Dorothy clasped their hands and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do. It really is a miracle.”

Jill L. Ferguson is an artist, consultant, entrepreneur and author of eight books, most recently of the book Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge, August 2018).