‘When can we go back?’

As the remains of Florence dissipate in the northeastern United States, residents in towns like Garland, North Carolina reckon with their second bout of record-breaking flooding in two years. The Barnes family, for example, barely crawled out of Hurricane Matthew:

On Tuesday, Mr. Barnes, 42, and his wife, Brandy, 41, sat parked on what was now the water’s edge of Lisbon Bridge Road in Garland, some 60 miles inland from where Hurricane Florence had slugged ashore four days earlier.

They had lived in the house, just across the field from Mr. Barnes’s father, since 1996 and had never flooded out until Matthew. Mr. Barnes didn’t think twice about rebuilding after the 2016 storm, even though he said his flood insurance only covered about $25,000 of the damage. He paid out of pocket to get county approvals to raise the house and even put on an addition.

Mr. Barnes said he was denied a low-interest construction loan through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so he borrowed money and drained the savings his family had built up after several good years running a local repair business.

“I replaced everything,” Mr. Barnes said.

Now, as he looked out at the waters and talked about boating home to check on the house, he said they did not know what to do.

Raising the house yet again would cost thousands. They had raised a son and a daughter there and did not want to leave. Their 16-year-old son, Mason, had been killed in a car crash just before Matthew. When the family had to flee again this month, the first thing their 11-year-old daughter asked her mother was: When can we go back?

Garland is about fifty miles southeast of Fayetteville; my North Carolinian friends will correct my geography. It’s inland. Yet these towns are no worse off for being away from sea level rise. Storms are getting bigger. They’re slowing down. They linger. No one is safe anymore.

And there I was thinking about investing in the beaches of Gainesville in 2075.

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