One year after Hurricane Matthew, UNC’s work in the community continues

One of the most destructive hurricanes in the past decade, Hurricane Matthew delivered more than 13 inches of rain in North Carolina over the course of 24 hours. It caused $1.5 billion in flood damage to 100,000 houses, businesses and government buildings, took the lives of 28 North Carolinians, forced more than 4,000 people to evacuate, and slammed into 50 counties across the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. One year later, North Carolina is still recovering and UNC continues to help those affected – first in the recovery process and now assisting with rebuilding.


Hurricane Matthew disaster relief trip to FayettevilleThe Carolina Center for Public Service has pledged $5,000 for building materials to the Adopt-A-Home program founded by the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (NCCUMC). Adopt-A-Home completely rebuilds and furnishes houses for displaced Lumberton residents. The Center will work with the Employee Forum, the Carolina Hazards Resilience Planners and other campus partners to provide volunteer labor to repair roofs, install walls and flooring, paint and more.

More than 1,000 Lumberton homes were damaged by Hurricane Matthew and for many residents not yet back in their homes, insurance and FEMA checks do not cover the full cost of repairs. Help from the UNC community ensures that another family will return to their home. In Lumberton, 176 houses are either finished or are currently being rebuilt.

Gary Locklear, regional director of Disaster Response for NCCUMC and a Pembroke, North Carolina native, witnessed his neighbors’ heartbreak as they looked at the remains of what used to be their homes.

“That was my first dose of reality,” Locklear said. “To watch this elderly woman asking ‘what can I keep.’”

Each home adopted through the program will be handicap accessible and will have new appliances. For homes that are beyond repair and must be rebuilt, there are two, three and four bedroom floorplan options to ensure each home is tailored to each family’s needs.

“I’m so passionate because Lumberton is home for me,” Locklear said. “I was there; I sat through all that rain. So many of these clients of ours, I know them… It makes them feel so good when I know someone they know or they recognize my name, and they feel they can trust me.”

Because the program relies on free labor, each house takes several months to build. The primary needs are for carpentry and construction volunteers, and money to meet the shortfall between the actual cost to rebuild or repair and insurance and FEMA funds.

Disaster Relief Trips

In the weeks and months after Hurricane Matthew, groups of UNC students, faculty and staff traveled to Lumberton, Garland, Princeville and Fayetteville, North Carolina to help with recovery efforts. Their work included mucking out buildings, tearing down water-logged walls and cabinetry, pulling up floors and removing debris. The next phase in the relief effort focuses on rebuilding. This semester, the Carolina Center for Public Service is sponsoring rebuilding trips to Lumberton on Oct. 6 and Dec. 1. These day trips are open to the campus community — faculty, staff and students. Work includes installing floors, walls and cabinets, painting and roof repair. While no experience is required, those with building skills are encouraged to volunteer. With supervisor approval, staff and faculty can use community service leave to participate in a relief trip.

Darrell Kidd on a disaster relief trip to LumbertonDarrell Kidd, exercise and sport science utility crew supervisor, has worked in construction for many years. He and his wife, Teresa, who is an accounting tech in the School of Social Work, participated in a disaster relief trip last December and plan to work in disaster rebuilding when they retire from UNC.

“I believe our trip helped people see that there are those who care – [from] those who are older to those who are young,” Kidd said. “We had a great mixed group that worked hard together and I am interested in going down again with UNC. I have many talents in the construction area and believe that I could be of help to those who are working hard to restore the homes that were damaged.”

To learn more about UNC disaster relief trips, visit Hurricane Matthew Disaster Relief efforts.


Researchers across UNC-Chapel Hill are also working on projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. More than sixteen teams are working on storm-related projects on topics such as water quality, buy-out programs and coastal resilience.

Mark Little, director of NC Growth, is helping to coordinate a corporate community investment project and other UNC system resources to address Princeville’s challenges and needs around rebuilding nearly the entire town, much of which sits in a floodplain.

Larry Engle, an epidemiology professor, is developing a web-based tool to help local public health professionals and state decision-makers prioritize and target community-level interventions for areas impacted by hurricanes.

Gavin Smith, Coastal Resilience Center director and head of the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, and his team are working with city officials and local residents in six priority communities across eastern North Carolina to assist them in developing post-disaster recovery plans.

To learn more about UNC research on Hurricane Matthew, see the Hurricane Matthew infographic.

If you would like to get involved in any of these efforts or know of other projects to share, contact

– Carolina –