Macon County shelter still recovering from cold weather damage

Freezing temperatures hit western North Carolina during the holiday, causing problems with water, power, and travel throughout the region.

In Macon County, Duke Energy reported that about 2,600 people lost power over the Christmas weekend.

The temperatures caused a pipe from the sprinkler system at the local domestic violence shelter to burst, flooding the entire facility – in the dark.

Five families were staying at the REACH shelter on Christmas Eve, Assistant Director Jennifer Turner-Lynn said.

“When the sprinkler pipe burst, it actually set off our fire alarm system, which it was supposed to do. And that’s how the fire alarm started going off,” she said.

From there, the staff – and some of the family members who had been celebrating together – jumped into action.

“Of course it was complicated. So we’re not just trying to get [families staying at the shelter] to alternative housing, but we also need to organize food and try to save Christmas gifts for her and her children,” Turner-Lynn said. “I’m really trying to save Christmas Eve for some of the kids who were honestly expecting Santa.”

The burst pipe caused significant damage. Despite a quick response time from the local fire department, the city of Franklin and ServPro, 95 percent of everything that touched the shelter’s floor, including furniture and office equipment, was there, she said.

“Fortunately, most customers, because they think very quickly, have been fortunate in that they haven’t personally had a major loss in terms of their own personal belongings or Christmas gifts or anything like that,” she said.

While repairs are underway, REACH is working with its partners across the region to set up families in alternative housing. According to REACH, the phone lines are still open for people who need help.

There is no timetable yet when the hut will be repaired. The team is trying to understand how much everything will cost because it took several weeks just to get the water out of the building, Executive Director Andrea Anderson said.

“So it really took a while to get everything dried and drained and drained so now contractors can come in and really look at what needs to be done,” Anderson said.

After dealing with the emergency and removing the damaged materials, the shelter requires an official analysis, Turner-Lynn said. Construction work must then be carried out to repair and replace the damage before staff can begin rebuilding the accommodation. The project is a multi-phase process and construction has not yet started, she said.

Staff believe much of the damage to the 10-bedroom property will be covered by insurance and they hope the community can help fill in any gaps.

There is no specific fundraiser for rebuilding costs, but REACH’s annual Mardi Gras fundraiser will be held on February 21st. Visit the REACH of Macon County Facebook page for more information.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact REACH or another local organization listed below. The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Resources and Shelters for Domestic Violence in WNC

REACH of Cherokee County in Murphy, Cherokee County

REACH by Clay County in Hayesville, Clay County

Center for Inner Peace in Sylva, Jackson County

Ernestine Walkingstick Shelter for Domestic Violence in Cherokee, Qualla Boundary

Swain/Qualla SAFE Domestic Violence Services in Bryson City, Swain County

REACH by Haywood County in Waynesville, Haywood County

SAFE Inc. in Brevard, Transylvania County

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