State News

Two NC counties added to federal disaster list

Posted September 1, 2011 6:18 a.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2011 10:26 a.m. EDT

— The federal government on Thursday expanded the disaster area in North Carolina after Hurricane Irene to include Halifax and Lenoir counties, Gov. Beverly Perdue said.

Meanwhile, the damage estimate from the weekend storm continues to mount.

President Obama on Wednesday approved Perdue's initial request for individual assistance for Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.

“We continue to aggressively pursue any and all avenues to help survivors of Hurricane Irene get back on their feet,” Perdue said in a statement. “I am committed to ensuring that the relief and recovery efforts occur as rapidly and seamlessly as possible.”

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help recover from the effects of the disaster. Applicants can contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency by going online or calling toll-free 800-621-3362.

The government also approved 20 counties to its disaster declaration for public assistance, which helps local governments with the costs of responding to the storm, as well as cleaning debris and repairing infrastructure.

The counties seeking public aid for storm recovery are Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Tyrrell and Wilson.

Representatives from FEMA and the state Division of Emergency Management were going door-to-door in hard-hit counties to make sure that renters, homeowners and small business owners know about available disaster assistance programs and to identify unmet needs. Team members will also meet with representatives of community and faith-based agencies, community leaders and public officials.

Perdue's office says more counties may be added to both disaster-aid lists.

Local governments coping with the after-effects of Hurricane Irene say their costs for removing debris and making repairs will be about $40 million, pushing the statewide damage estimate to nearly $150 million.

Perdue said Tuesday that a preliminary estimate of damage hit more than $71 million.

Officials said Wednesday that Martin County estimated some $37 million in damage to crops, especially tobacco and cotton.

Farmers in Edgecombe County told Perdue Thursday that most of the local tobacco crop was damaged by Irene, and they asked for her help landing money to recover the losses.

Burt Pitt said he was able to harvest about 20 acres of his tobacco near Pinetops by continuing to work in the rain as Irene rolled in last weekend. Another 100 acres of tobacco leaves were shredded and turned yellow and brown.

Tarboro tobacco grower Richard Anderson asked Perdue to get help from the federal and state governments.

While visiting a tobacco farm, the governor signed an executive order to make it easier for state crews to remove storm debris from farms and for farmers to burn storm-related trash.