Hurricane Irene damage assessment, cleanup underway
RALEIGH -- Gov. Bev Perdue announced Thursday that she has secured federal approval for Halifax and Lenoir counties to be added to the federal disaster declaration in North Carolina.
That brings the total number of counties approved for individual assistance to nine.
"We continue to aggressively pursue any and all avenues to help survivors of Hurricane Irene get back on their feet," Perdue said. "I am committed to ensuring that the relief and recovery efforts occur as rapidly and seamlessly as possible."
Seven coastal counties - Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell - have already been approved after Perdue's initial request for federal disaster assistance to help local governments in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
The governor has been assessing emergency response and visiting with local officials since Sunday to discuss the devastation caused by the storm.
State Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell has asked that 20 counties be added to North Carolina's federal disaster declaration request for public assistance. The public assistance program helps local governments with the costs of responding to the storm, as well as cleaning debris and repairing infrastructure.
Perdue's office says more counties may be added to both lists as local, state and federal teams complete preliminary damage assessments while crews continue work to restore power, clear debris and open roadways. .
Thirty-four counties already are getting federal help to pay for the immediate storm response.
"I urged our federal partners to move quickly on this request for assistance, and they did," Perdue said. "We're grateful for that rapid response. Our fellow North Carolinians who suffered losses during this storm need to start rebuilding their lives now - not tomorrow."
In Wanchese and Aurora Beach, located in Beaufort and Pamlico counties, residents are recovering from widespread devastation and loss of homes. It is estimated that hundreds have suffered total losses.
As of Thursday, state officials said the damage estimate from Irene was up to $108 million. Officials also learned Martin County farmers suffered $37 million in crop losses.
The governor said earlier this week that damage to tobacco, soybean and corn crops are of a magnitude that she hadn't seen before.
The presidential declaration enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide low-interest loans or grants to hurricane survivors to help them repair their homes, pay medical costs, rebuild their businesses and begin the long recovery process. The federal grants and loans are intended to help disaster survivors restore their primary residences to safe, sanitary and a functional condition. Secondary residences are not eligible for federal assistance.
Coastal communities aren't the only ones dealing with Hurrican Irene's aftermath.
In Rocky Mount, nearly three thousand residents remain without power and their supplies are dwindling.
Many residents are relying on generators.
"We had at one time on Saturday, 26,000 people without power," said Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs. "Got it down pretty quickly to 16, then nine. Today, I'm glad to say it's less than 3,000."
There is no exact date for when all power will be restored, but it should happen by Friday.
Coastal communities continue to assess damage and begin cleanup while dealing with logistical issues like getting to their property.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has begun picking up of storm-related debris along state-maintained roads in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.
Hatteras Island, one of the jewels of the state's tourism industry, was cut off from the mainland when water rushing into the Pamlico Sound destroyed at least five portions of state Highway 12, the only road leading to the barrier island.
Transportation officials have given no estimate on how long emergency repairs to the two-lane highway will take. But Perdue indicated it could be longer than the two months needed to rebuild the road in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel chewed a new channel into Hatteras Island.
The NCDOT has created a mapwith markers linked to its aerial photos of the beaches on N.C. 12 on the Outer Banks.
Officials have not made a decision yet about letting Hatteras Island residents board ferries to return home.
Utility crews told Dare County officials Thursday that not enough progress had been made in returning power to the Outer Banks island.
The Dare County Sheriff's Office has established a curfew for local residents as well as for those trying to access Hatteras Island. A statement issued Monday night said the nightly curfew is in effect from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice. The curfew also applies to anyone attempting to gain access to Hatteras Island by any type of watercraft. Officials said Coast Guard boats are patrolling the area.
While the rest of the tourism season on Hatteras Island appears shot, the rest of the state's beaches began a push to bring people back, as the holiday weekend loomed.
All beaches from Rodanthe south to Ocracoke - which includes Avon, Buxton, and Hatteras - are closed until further notice.
Everything north of Rodanthe, including Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Duck, and Corolla, are open. However, authorities in Corolla have put out a red flag warning due to debris washing up on the beach.
Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle and the southern beaches, all the way to the South Carolina border are open.
Perdue said the Governor's hurricane hotline is open for people who need help. Residents can call (888) 835-9966. The deaf and hard of hearing can call (877) 877-1765. More is also available at www.readync.org
Residents needing assistance can also call:
- FEMA (800) 621-3362
- Red Cross (800) 999-6828
Help is available in Dare County through Dare County Social Services and the American Red Cross. If you need this assistance call (252) 475-5655.
Before attempting re-entry to Dare County, or the Currituck Outer Banks, visit www.darenc.com or call (877) 629-4386 for updated information regarding when re-entry will be permitted. Once re-entry is allowed, you should also call your accommodations provider to confirm that lodging will be available.
Residents can call (252) 232-6041 with questions regarding the shelter. For general storm-related information, citizens can call the Currituck Emergency Hotline at (252) 232-6010, visit www.CurrituckGovernment.com, www.VisitCurrituck.com, or follow CurrituckGov on Twitter.
Donations have already started to come in to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund.
Governor Perdue announced the relief fund Tuesday. Learn more at: www.ncdisasterrelief.org.
If you'd like to donate to the Red Cross for storm relief, you can do so at: www.american.redcross.org
Officials said the money would be going to those hit hardest by Hurricane Irene.Click here to read more
nc hurricanes, hurricane irene, bev perdue, local/state
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