Published: 2011-04-18 12:02:00
Updated: 2011-04-18 19:27:24
Posted April 18, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Emergency management teams on Monday were assessing damage from tornadoes that ripped through North Carolina Saturday. But state officials said it might be the end of the week before the full extent of the disaster is clear.
State Crime Control and Public Safety spokeswoman Julia Jarema said the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived in the state late Saturday night.
Jarema said federal and state officials are working together on preliminary damage assessment teams and meeting with county emergency management officials to tally homes and property that were damaged or destroyed. Crews started work in Cumberland and Greene counties Sunday.
Teams were surveying damage in Bertie, Bladen, Cumberland, Halifax, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Wake and Wilson counties on Monday.
Once areas have been surveyed, state emergency management officials will compile the damage estimates to see which areas, if any, qualify for individual or community financial assistance from the federal government.
Jarema said her agency is also working to confirm the number of people killed and injured by the storms.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on out there, a lot of conflicting numbers," Jarema said.
Initial reports indicate more than 130 homes have been destroyed and more than 700 damaged, some severely.
The estimated death toll in the state is 23. More than 125 people sought treatment for tornado-related injuries over the weekend at local emergency rooms. Facilities in Bertie, Cumberland, Johnston, Lee and Wake counties were particularly busy.
In Raleigh, officials said 63 single-family homes were destroyed and 184 homes sustained major damage. Officials said 851 homes received minor damage.
Gov. Perdue issued a State of Emergency declaration late Saturday night and also waived weight restrictions on heavy trucks to allow relief supplies and crews to begin the recovery process. Local states of emergencies have also been declared.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said the states of emergencies mean consumer protection experts are now authorized to investigate allegations of price gouging in 18 counties and cities - Bertie, Bladen, Cumberland, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pender, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wilson counties; and the cities of Dunn and Farmville.
Price gouging – or charging an unreasonably excessive amount in times of crisis – is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared by the governor or local governments. The law also applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.
To report price gouging, call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (toll-free within North Carolina) or by fill out a price gouging complaint form online.
So far, Jarema said state and federal officials haven’t had to set up tent camps or feeding stations for displaced residents. Most of the aid has been handled by county services. As of Monday morning, seven shelters remained open. Two others were closed because they weren’t needed.
Other than damage assessment, the state’s main role is helping to coordinate county requests for “mutual aid” help from other counties, Jarema said.
“We’ve been sending search and rescue teams, law enforcement support and fire and rescue help” from unaffected counties to those worst hit, Jarema said.
In coming days, most requests will probably be for chainsaw teams to help clear debris, she said.
Jarema said people who need assistance with storm damage should contact their local county emergency management.
“That’s the first step in the process,” she said. “If you have additional needs, let your local emergency management know.”
Property owners with insurance should report damage as soon as possible to get that process started as well, she added.
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin provided these insurance tips for North Carolinians dealing with property damage:
The Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division is available to assist with insurance-related questions or complaints. They can be reached at 1-800-546-5664 (toll free in North Carolina) or 919-807-6750.
Debris pickup information
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will pick up storm-related debris along state-maintained roads in severely-impacted areas. Pick-up is expected to begin later this week.
NCDOT officials also offered the following tips:
Wake County is collecting storm debris to aid in clean-up efforts at various sites in the area.