Alaskan nurses help in North Carolina, devastated by Hurricane Florence

An external photo of the last operating shelter for victims of Hurricane Florence in Brunswick County, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Peggy Sue Wright.

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Almost two weeks since Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14, 36 people are confirmed dead, and flood waters continue to rise in some areas, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Channel 2 heard from a nurse from Juneau providing medical assistance in North Carolina, where thousands of people are still displaced from major flooding.

Peggy Sue Wright is one of three Alaskan public health nurses in Brunswick County, North Carolina.

She is working mainly with families and elderly people who lost their homes entirely to the hurricane.

"They've been consolidating shelters, and this is the last one in this county," Wright said. "We've got 45 to 50 people in this shelter, and they're probably going to be there for a little while."

As the storm was moving out last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned the danger was far from over.

"One thing we know all too well is that sunshine doesn't necessarily mean safety," he said at a FEMA briefing.

Gov. Cooper was warning NC residents that river flooding would continue to ravage the southeastern part of the state.

"I know for many people, this feels like a nightmare that just won't end,” Gov. Cooper said. “I know many people are tired of the present, and are scared of the future. But please note, we will not give up on you."

Alaskans are sending that very same message to the displaced people of Brunswick County, NC, where just last Thursday flooding was so intense it collapsed the Patricia Lake's Dam. Peggy Sue Wright is at a shelter in Shallotte, about 20 miles south of the dam.

"The people who are in shelter now have totally lost everything,” Wright said. “And FEMA is working with them to get them into housing. But they literally have the clothes on their back."

Wright says the shelter is in a low-income area, serving mostly young families and elderly people with nowhere to turn.

"Most of them have been told it's going to be three or four months before they have permanent housing," she said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, multiple rivers in the southeastern part of the state remain at major flood stage, and will continue flooding into Oct. But the total number of people remaining in shelters is just over 2,000, down from a peak of around 20,000.

Wright says it's a tense situation inside her shelter, where people have been living for three weeks.

"People are highly stressed,” she said. “And what we're seeing now is people are getting very, very stressed."

Wright says her most important job is to remind these people who have lost their homes that they are not forgotten.

"So a lot of it's about that,” she said. “Checking on them. Making them feel like somebody cares."

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says as of Monday, around 80,000 people in 27 coastal counties have been approved for federal disaster assistance. That's more than $26 million going to individuals and families affected by the storm.

Wright says she is due to return to Juneau Oct 4th.

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