Weather

Flood damage assessed in eastern N.C.

Posted October 5, 2010 6:17 a.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2010 7:25 p.m. EDT

— Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and State Emergency Response Team began their assessments Tuesday of damage from rain and floods in eastern North Carolina, even as some areas continued to face high water unlikely to recede before the weekend.

Concerns ranged from lost homes and wrecked businesses to potentially harmful effects on farmers’ crops. With damage spread across 19 counties, the full scope won’t be known until the end of the week at the earliest.

“After ‘99, nobody thought it would happen again in their lifetime, and now 11 years later we’re reliving the same thing,” said Vanceboro Mayor Chad Braxton, referring to Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Waters in the Craven County town were still high, and Braxton said it will be about two days before it’s clear how many homes and businesses were damaged. But officials there know that roughly 26 homes, including 14 mobile homes from a park on the outskirts of town, are total losses already.

The Red Cross was still operating shelters Tuesday in Washington, Windsor and New Bern, said regional director Lynwood Roberson, although he didn’t have a tally of overnight occupants. The area Red Cross has served 632 meals and more than 3,500 snacks to people displaced by the flooding, but say demand is beginning to drop off.

“The waters are receding a little bit now, thank the good Lord,” Roberson said.

The falling waters are allowing state and federal teams to begin estimating how much damage has been done since last week, when more than 20 inches of rain fell across most of the eastern part of the state.

In some places, the water has barely receded, leaving residents still vulnerable to high water.

State officials expect the Northeast Cape Fear River at Burgaw, the Neuse River at Kinston and the Lumber River at Lumberton to remain at flood stage until Friday or Saturday, said Julia Jarema, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.

“The river crested yesterday, but it’s only receded half a foot since then,” said Tommy Batson, a deputy fire marshal with the Pender County Department of Emergency Management in Burgaw. “There’s still a lot of stuff that’s just inundated.”

State officials are also concerned about potential losses to farmers in the region, where some fields sat under a foot or more of water.

“The weather from here on out will dictate how severe the damage is, how quickly the fields dry and how quickly the harvests (can be brought in),” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler at a Council of State meeting. “It just proves that no matter how much technology we have and good production practices we have, we’re always at the whim of the weather. And that’s what farmers have to deal with.”

Troxler is particularly worried about damage to cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, peanuts and any tobacco still left in the fields.

Gov. Bev Perdue, who traveled to flooded areas over the weekend, said she expects the federal government will come through with money to help recovery efforts.

“It’s just really bad all over the place,” she said. “Windsor is just sad.”

Windsor, the Bertie County seat, saw some of the worst flooding in the state, with more than 200 homes and businesses damaged. As residents worked to clean up, though, many were trying to find some positive aspects to the disaster.

“At least it didn’t stay around as long as Floyd,” said Beverly Bracy as she helped clean up Joe’s Service Center, a gas station owned by her father. “It came in fast and it went out fast.”

Windsor Mayor James Hoggard said he hopes the flooding will make way for more federal funding so the town can build a $3 million levee along the Cashie River.

“Our part of the project would have been a couple million (dollars),” Hoggard said. “So, it’s not anything that a town this size can do.”

Hoggard has a meeting planned for Wednesday with a representative of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

“She was very interested in it,” Hoggard said. “We’re going to see if we can get the federal government to pick up a bigger part of the tab.”

For families or business-owners to qualify for federal low-income loans or grants, there must be more than 100 uninsured or under-insured homes or businesses destroyed or severely damaged in a county.

Chrissy Pearson, a Perdue spokeswoman, said a decision about which counties qualify could be made by the end of the week.