Roanoke Rapids, N.C. — Gov. Beverly Perdue signed a disaster declaration Friday to free up state relief money for victims of floods in Halifax County last weekend.
Perdue also has sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration seeking federal disaster relief funds. If approved, homeowners, renters and business owners could qualify for low-interest loans or grants to help them recover from the flooding.
About 11.5 inches of rain fell in the Roanoke Rapids area over seven hours last Saturday, damaging more than 150 homes and businesses, shutting down Interstate 95 for several hours and sending more than 50 residents to shelters.
Local and state emergency management teams began initial damage surveys Monday and met with SBA staff Wednesday to continue damage assessment. Teams looked at about 75 homes and businesses in Roanoke Rapids, Gaston and Weldon and other areas in Halifax and Northampton counties, as well as damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Linda Carter's home on Carolina Avenue in Roanoke Rapids was among the inundated properties.
"It hurts to see that everything that you've done in your life – everything that you've worked for – is gone," Carter said Friday as her possessions were carted out of the house in a wheelbarrow and piled in the front yard.
Perdue toured some of the damaged homes and businesses before signing the disaster declaration.
"I see the 40 or 50 families that have lost everything. Everything that they have is piled in a ditch along the side of the road. For those people, the world as they know it has changed," she said.
"This isn't the worst disaster that's ever happened in North Carolina's history," she continued, "but the reality is, for any community and any citizen who loses everything or has nearly everything they have destroyed or unusable, it's a major disaster."
The state disaster declaration will help flood victims who don't qualify for SBA money, officials said.
Some homeowners, including Tim Strickland, said they want to see more than loans.
"There's no way that we can take a loan from the government to rebuild our houses that we still have mortgages on," Strickland said.
He said he believes the area will flood again in the future, and he wants the government to offer buyouts for properties. State officials said buyouts are available only where the president has declared a disaster area, so funding is not available.
Carter said she's glad to see any help.
"It's time for something to be done," she said.
Anyone affected by the flooding is asked to register with their county emergency management department.