McCrory wants changes to hurricane ratings

Posted October 10, 2016 2:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 10, 2016 6:13 p.m. EDT

— After viewing the devastating flooding caused across eastern North Carolina by Hurricane Matthew, Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that he plans to talk with National Weather Service officials about adjusting the way the agency rates hurricanes.

McCrory said categorizing storms based only on their sustained wind speeds is misleading.

"Rain kills," he said as he stood next to a massive sinkhole on Gillespie Street in Fayetteville. "I think they need to start including both wind and water in their characterization of the rating of these hurricanes."

McCrory said people tend to relax and downplay the serious impact a storm like Matthew can have when they hear it's been downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 hurricane.

"They say, 'Well, that's not going to be any problem,'" he said.

Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, said storm surge along the coast and inland flooding from hurricanes "is the primary reason why there's property destruction and loss of life" and is usually more of a driver than wind speeds in determining evacuations.

Flooding will continue to be a problem in many communities for weeks, McCrory said, noting that he is grateful that the General Assembly this summer added to the state's reserve fund, which can be tapped to help with recovery efforts.

"This storm is not over," he said. "We have not hit the most serious point of this flood in North Carolina."

The federal government also issued disaster declarations Monday afternoon for 31 counties, clearing the way for more recovery assistance for residents and businesses.

The following counties are covered by the government declaration: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Tyrrell, Washington and Wayne. The declaration also approved 10 counties for individual assistance to help homeowners and renters repair or replace damaged homes: Beaufort, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt and Robeson.

McCrory said he's now most concerned about communities on the Neuse, Cape Fear and Tar rivers as high water moves downstream in the coming days.

"Anywhere you're along a river, you're going to get hit," the governor said.

Many of the homes and businesses affected didn't have flood insurance, he said.

"A lot weren't in the flood plain, so why would they have flood insurance?" he said.