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Solar Light and Power After the Storm: Mercy Corps Responds to Hurricane Florence

  • 4 min read

In September 2018, during peak hurricane season, Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with wind speeds reaching up to 90 miles per hour. Florence was a particularly slow-moving storm with heavy winds, making flooding from rain and storm surges the most salient concerns for those in the area. The storm spent several days along the coast of North and South Carolina, moving at only 2-3 miles per hour during most of this time and dropping up to 36 inches of rain on the area.

Heavy flooding along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia left many people with damaged homes and property and without access to stable power. Even two weeks after the storm had moved northeast and dissipated, the floodwaters continued to rise. Due to the flooding, the power company teams had significant difficulty reaching areas that needed repairs. Downed trees and heavy winds meant some folks were without power for several weeks.

The Gift of Light and Power

Mercy Corps showing off a solar phone charger.

LuminAID worked with international humanitarian organization, Mercy Corps, to raise funds for and distribute 1,300 PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Superchargers in North Carolina. The PackLite Hero Superchargers help families to feel safe at night with extra-bright LEDs and allows them to charge their phones and stay connected with emergency services and family members. Through a campaign page on our website and generous donations from corporate partners such as Amazon, we were able to help bring light and power to those left in the dark after Hurricane Florence.

“In situations where people have been devastated by a natural disaster and have lost access to power, simply having a reliable source of power and a way to stay connected to loved ones and information can be an extremely important comfort and resource to survivors.”

-- Jill Morehead, Mercy Corps Team Leader

We spoke with Jill Morehead, Mercy Corps’ emergency response team leader, on October 1st to get an update from the field, but distribution continued until October 11th. Now that the campaign has officially closed, we have a full update from Mercy Corps on their efforts in North Carolina, the response from residents, and the long road to recovery.

Mercy Corps distributed the 1,300 PackLite Hero lanterns to local agencies and partners who then distributed them to first responders and vulnerable households.

Mercy Corps Distribution Stats

Mercy Corps’ response in North Carolina went beyond solar light and focused on the most vulnerable populations. Based on the results of their thorough assessment, they prepared a mix of critical relief items and cash to help with home repairs and recovery. As of October 19, 2018, over 10,000 people in Robeson County, NC had registered with FEMA as needing aid following the hurricane.

Hurricane Florence Response Distribution Map

Relief and Recovery


When Mercy Corps reached Havelock, NC, they met up with the town's mayor, William Lewis. Lewis arrived with his own pickup truck and loaded it up with supplies, including 150 PackLite Hero Superchargers. He then sped off to distribute the lanterns to households in need.

“Yesterday there were 5,000 homes still without power in the county. 4,000 of them were in Havelock. You have no idea what these lanterns will mean to people.”

-- William Lewis, Mayor of Havelock, NC

Team Rubicon

Team Rubicon distributed the lanterns to first responders, such as firefighters and police, who were without electricity at home. The team also used the PackLite Hero Superchargers themselves, as they worked to muck out flooded homes. The team was especially grateful for the LuminAID lights as they were staying in a warehouse without electricity. Ensuring that first responders have the light and power they need is often one of the first priorities in a disaster situation.

Mercy Corps LuminAID Distribution


Large areas of the city of Lumberton remained flooded for more than a week following Hurricane Florence. The city was also still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and some residents had only just returned to their homes when Florence hit. Mercy Corps was able to give 100 PackLite Hero Superchargers to Lumberton City Hall as well as 350 lanterns to the Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee (RCDRC). The RCDRC requested these lights as Hurricane Michael approached the East Coast, just weeks after Hurricane Florence. Many people in the area were extremely anxious and ultimately grateful to receive the lights in preparation for another storm.

"When Mercy Corps arrived, there were more than 200 people still at the Red Cross Mass Care shelter at the Lumberton High School...Mercy Corps donated 50 lanterns to the shelter (which had lost power twice since the storm) to allow people to charge phones and for light should the power go out again."

-- Jill Morehead, Mercy Corps Team Leader

We are very grateful to Mercy Corps for their diligent and tireless work in bringing relief to those recovering from Hurricane Florence. Our experience in North Carolina has only strengthened our belief that light and power are essential needs following a disaster, and we continue to work to ensure that our lights get where they are needed, no matter how close or far from home. 

If you would like to help give light around the world, please visit our Give Light, Get Light page, and learn how you can share in our mission to light the world.



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