Storm damage in Wake County could hit $100M

Posted April 18, 2011 4:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2011 11:29 p.m. EDT

— Wake County officials said Monday that damage from the weekend storms is at least $65 million and could reach $100 million.

In Raleigh alone, 63 homes were destroyed, and another 185 had major damage, said Carl Dawson, director of the city's Public Utilities Department.

Paul Coble, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said a combination of insurance, federal assistance and some county funding would pay for the damage.

"It’s going to be an assortment of funding that’s going to have to applied to taking care of this," Coble said.

"We have lots and lots of work to do, but we've already made a lot of progress," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

The Stony Brook North mobile home park, off Brentwood Road in northeast Raleigh, remained off limits until Monday evening to residents and others because of heavy damage.

"There are mobile home units that are very unstable. There's trees that are still there that are causing us great concern, and we have to make sure that all the power lines are confined and appropriately dealt with," Police Chief Harry Dolan said.

Three children – Daniel Nino, 9, Kevin Coronado, 3, and Osvaldo Coronado, 8 – were killed in the storm when a large tree crashed down on a mobile home in Stony Brook North. Nino's mother was hurt as she tried to protect the children, and a 6-month-old girl was critically injured.

"It makes me just not even want to step foot on this property ever again," Stony Brook North resident Gregory Gilmore said. "I just want to get in, get our personal belongings and get out."

Gilmore said he wasn't at home when the storm hit, but after returning to find his family was safe, he hasn't been able to get back to the neighborhood to retrieve anything.

"There was debris everywhere. The ceiling is completely caved in, which is why we want to get in there, because it's supposed to rain Wednesday," he said.

Despite the widespread damage, Dolan said, Raleigh police have received no reports of looting in affected neighborhoods.

WakeMed treated 47 people with storm-related injuries. Thirty-five of the patients were treated and released, officials said.

At Shaw University in downtown Raleigh, administrators were trying to arrange for buses to Washington, D.C., New York and other locations to get students home. Shaw canceled the last two weeks of class and final exams for the spring semester because of damage on campus.

Part of the student center's roof was torn off, trees were uprooted and windows were blown out of several buildings.

”Our goal is to get students home safely, and we will do whatever we can to make that happen,” Shaw President Irma McLaurin said.

Student Dwayne Howard said he rode out the storm in the student center.

"I thought I was going to die," Howard said  "We looked up and saw the rotation (of the storm) going on. Everything was flying. Rocks were flying. Glass was flying."

Meanwhile, St. Augustine's College planned to resume classes on Tuesday despite damage.

Raleigh officials said it could take until the end of May to clear the estimated 175,000 to 250,000 cubic yards of tree limbs, insulation, shingles and other storm debris from the city.

Contractors hired by the city should begin the clean-up effort this week, Dawson said.

Individual volunteers and groups already have fanned out among some of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods.

In parts of east Raleigh, it's as if the tornado just hit. Tree limbs still scatter the road, widespread power outages remain in some areas and people are staying in homes with massive holes in the roofs and walls.

Shirley Wilkerson spent last night in her damaged home, where gaping holes in the roof leave her open to the elements.

"I ran out of funds and I have nowhere to go," she said, adding that she's still recovering from the fright of the storm.

Other residents, however, have packed up their belongings and gone to stay with friends or relatives until clean-up is complete.

A team from the North Carolina Baptist Men showed up at Agnus Breedlove's home off Lake Wheeler Road Monday morning to clear a huge limb that the storm brought down in her front yard.

About 200 volunteers from the disaster relief group are going from one neighborhood to the next, looking for people who need the help, cutting up hundreds of trees and preparing thousands of meals.

"I get back a whole lot more than I put into it, so it is a blessing to be able to serve a lot of people that I know personally," volunteer Lin Honeycutt said.

Breedlove noted that one of her neighbors had a tree down on his house, and she said she's grateful to survive the storm.

"I've just thanked God all weekend," she said. "It's just unreal."

Randy McAtee said dozens of strangers have helped him salvage items from his storm-damaged home on Serendipity Drive, off Forestville Road in northeast Raleigh, and clear debris.

"People came in droves as far as to help out – local churches, people just showing up," McAtee said.

He said he was working on his computer Saturday when he heard the storm approaching. As he went to look out a window, he heard his roof begin to tear off.

McAtee, four other adults and three children scrambled to the basement to ride out the storm, which sheared off the top of the house.

The home is one of three in the McKinley Mill neighborhood that city officials have condemned because of heavy damage. Close to a dozen others in the neighborhood also sustained damage in the storm.

Neighbor Issa Salman said volunteers also helped him clear up storm debris.

"Some asked, some jumped in. It was amazing," Salman said. "We don't have relatives here, but everybody's a relative now."

Meeker said such attitudes will help Raleigh recover from the disaster.

"We are really a very resilient community," he said. "For many people, this will be an opportunity to not just build back but also to get things repaired that should have been repaired. So maybe this lemon can be turned into lemonade by some people."

Raleigh has set up a phone line at 919-996-6100 for residents to call for storm-related help.