Crop losses push NC damage from Irene above $400M

The damage estimate in North Carolina from Hurricane Irene continued to mount Friday, with Gov. Beverly Perdue putting the latest tally at more than $400 million.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The damage estimate in North Carolina from Hurricane Irene continued to mount Friday, with Gov. Beverly Perdue putting the latest tally at more than $400 million.

Meanwhile, the federal government extended its disaster declaration in North Carolina after Hurricane Irene to include Currituck, Onslow, Pitt and Washington counties. The move allows residents of those counties to seek low-interest loans or grants to help them recover from the storm.

The bulk of North Carolina's storm damage is $320 million in crop losses, Perdue said. Uninsured personal and business losses accounted for another $40 million, while government cleanup costs are more than $45 million, she said.

"We knew the financial toll would be large, but our determination to help victims of the storm recover is even bigger," the governor said in a statement.

In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, Perdue requested an expedited major disaster declaration for 43 counties in eastern North Carolina. Without immediate help, she said, many producers will go out of business, and the economic ripple effect will result in thousands of additional lost jobs.

"Extreme drought had already withered crops and delayed harvests, resulting in even greater hurricane damage that might otherwise have occurred," she said, noting crops from cotton to sweet potatoes to tobacco were damaged.

The addition of four counties to the federal disaster declaration mean that residents in 13 North Carolina counties can now seek recovery aid. Nine other counties – Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Halifax, Hyde, Lenoir, Pamlico and Tyrrell – were already covered by the declaration.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the government has 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 eligible for 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.

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