The first few days of October, the southern portion of the East Coast awaited Hurricane Matthew. What was once a category 3, was later scaled down to a category 1, but the devastation along the east coast from northern Florida to North Carolina is on par with some of the heftiest storm events in history. It was on a road trip back to Florida when I ran into this destruction first hand.

Headed southbound on I-95, cruise control set at 78, I was approaching Dunn, North Carolina when suddenly all three lanes were closed. The police routed traffic up Rt. 421 and all roads headed south, including 301, were blocked, directing traffic either North or West.

I didn’t want to head 7 hours back to Maryland, so I muscled my Durango down North Carolina’s back roads. I now understand the campaign for “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”. These towns were completely underwater, trees in the road, no power, and no gasoline for miles. I saw some larger trucks and SUVs venturing down the flooded roads, so I went for it. On the side of the road, there were cars submerged completely underwater, and flooded storefronts and homes. As a rescue vehicle drove by in the opposite direction, it pushed water up so high that it came onto the hood of my truck. I started thinking “maybe I should have turned around.” But I just sadly looked at the devastation and kept trucking.

The most impactful thing I witnessed were families whose homes were flooded and had nowhere to go. They would park their car in a relatively dry location, and just watch their home and belongings get destroyed. At least 6 or 7 people, with 3-4 pets, crammed in a mini-van with nowhere to go…

The civilians were truly remarkable, at 2 a.m. there were trucks full of men with spotlights looking for people needing assistance. There were store owners who opened their shops to the rescued families. One man actually got in his truck, to help me find my way back to I-95. He led me through his flooded town to assure I got through his neighborhood without getting trapped by flood water.

Seeing the ruin surrounding me, I got an entirely new appreciation for my job in insurance. People don’t understand how important insurance is until it’s too late. Especially flood insurance. They may have lost everything, but if they have flood insurance, they will at least have some way to begin again.

Neighbors are helping neighbors and the entire community is pitching in, but the damage is heart breaking. If you wish to help the victims, please visit the Red Cross and be sure to educate yourself on how to protect your family and assets in case a storm like this threatens you.

Written by: Alex DeMarco

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