Local News

Hunt Requests FEMA Aid, Plans Aerial Tour

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com
Governor Jim Hunt speaks to Bill Leslie and Renee McCoy from the emergency management command center in Raleigh Thursday morning. (WRAL-TV5 News)
RALEIGH — As coastal residents endure what's left of Hurricane Bonnie, Governor Jim Hunt shared his sentiments on the storm with WRAL's Bill Leslie and Renee McCoy. Hunt offered words of encouragement for coastal residents, and plans to tour the storm-ravaged coastline. Renee: I can imagine it's been a very long two days for you and your staff:

It sure has, Renee. And we've got at least another day to go. This hurricane continues to hover over us, and batter the coast and inland areas. I cannot exaggerate my admiration and appreciation for the people of our state emergency response. Since Fran two years ago, we have really done an awful lot to get prepared to do the job better. Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker headed up a team to study our response when Fran went through. We came up with a lot of ways to change it and make it better. We employed one of the best people throughout the country to head up our emergency management efforts. This time we were better prepared. We got people off the coast faster, about a half million of them came off. We had 17,000 of those people in shelters last night. We are ready to get out there today, working far more closely with FEMA and others to assess our damages. I got my letter up to the president yesterday asking him for us to be declared a disaster area. I have been told that he is looking at that very favorably. We feel good about what we've done. There is tremendous hurricane damage to our people on the coast. It's going to continue for another day. The main thing I would say to folks is to stay safe. Stay inside when the winds are blowing. Don't go into flooded areas. Lookout for yourself and your families. Let's get through this thing, and then pitch in and help each other clean up. Bill: We are hearing sporadic reports on damage at Wrightsville Beach, Topsail Island, Beaufort and Morehead City. Are you getting any reports of any particularly hard hit areas on our coast?

Bill, the damage that we know about so far has been pretty light. We are just beginning to look around and get some people out there. We'll see a lot more damage in the northeastern part [of the coast], even though the winds have cut down some. That's an area where you are going to have tremendous overwash from the sounds. That tidal surge could be 10-12 feet in areas that have probably never had it before. We are going to have a lot more damage come in. We're thankful it has been no greater than it has before. We're determined to keep helping people get through this. Don't get out too soon. I hope to get out today and go down to the south coast and personally look at what has happened, and work with our people who are out there working very hard. Bill: We'd like to know if you're planning an aerial tour, perhaps tomorrow or later on today. What are your plans there?

Bill, I hope to do that on part of the coast today. That's going to depend on whether the winds are down, and we can get out there safely. Not only am I planning to get out there, our Secretary of Transportation, Norris Tolson, our Secretary of Environment and Natural resources, Wayne McDevitt, are getting out there. Richard Moore, our Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, is working continuously on this. Our Department of Commerce people, Rick Carlisle, are working hard on it. Our corrections folks will be out there. We'll be putting prisoners to work to help clean up. I hope to go out later today to the southern part of the coast if the winds have past enough so we can do that safely. I'll be looking at all of the rest of the coast, as soon as we can get there. We are going to throw everything we've got into respond to this and helping people. Renee: Governor, you know what it's like after the storm has past. What is your best advice to those folks who are waiting on pins and needles to get back there?

Don't go in until people have told you that it is safe to go. Don't go back on that coast. Don't go into those areas along the sounds. Be very, very careful along our rivers, which are going to be backing up. That tide gets so high and the storm surge is so high on our coast as it is. It will continue to be for the next day and a half. Water is going to back up. We're going to see flooding up the Neuse River and other rivers in perhaps a way that we've never seen before. So, we really urge people to be very careful. Don't go in until they tell you it's safe. There's going to be damage. People are going to have it to homes, beach cottages and businesses. It's better to let it be there for a few more hours, than to get in and run the risk of being personally hurt.