Although Western North Carolina avoided falling victim to Hurricane Irene, the rest of the state is starting the week trying to recover from the devastating storm.
The death count for Hurricane Irene is an estimated 42 and rising, with six North Carolinians dead as a result of Hurricane Irene; two in Pitt County and one each in Nash, Onslow, Sampson and Wayne counties. Three of the six were killed in motor vehicle crashes, two were killed by falling trees and one suffered a heart attack while preparing for storm. The death toll has risen to a reported 40 on Wednesday, up from the estimated 25 causalities reported on Monday, as recovery efforts started to reveal bodies in flood waters in the counties affected by the storm.
U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan spent much of Monday and Tuesday touring communities in the eastern portion of the state to assist in surveying the damage.
According to a statement released from U.S. Senator Richard Burr, NC officials are diligently working on recovery efforts. “While the worst of Hurricane Irene has passed through North Carolina, we are now faced with the challenge of dealing with the destruction and damage the storm left in its wake. My staff and I remain in constant contact with officials at the local, state, and federal levels to assess the damage that was done and find ways to help those who were affected by the storm. I encourage all North Carolinians in need of assistance to contact my offices in Winston-Salem, Wilmington, or Rocky Mount to let us know what we can do to help. My staff and I will do all we can to provide aid to the individuals and communities who were impacted by Hurricane Irene. I also encourage anyone needing assistance to register with FEMA once their operations are up and running,” said Burr.
Gov. Bev Perdue spent much of the week on the ground and in the air surveying damage that Hurricane Irene inflicted throughout the state. “Flooding remains a serious concern for a number of areas down east,” Perdue said Monday. “Homes and buildings are at risk along portions of the Northeast Cape Fear and Tar rivers. We have emergency responders in place to assist with any needs and will continue to keep a close eye on the situation.” Perdue joined two Obama administration cabinet secretaries on Tuesday to get a firsthand look at the damage caused by the hurricane.
Although progress was reported, nearly 110,000 people were without power on Wednesday (down from a reported 300,000 on Monday, and reported peak high of 600,000 residents). Utility crews from across the state and reinforcement from other states continue to head down east to help restore power.
Transportation crews have been working around the clock to clear and reopen highways. At least 40 roads and bridges remained closed on Monday. Numerous roads are impassable due to fallen trees, downed power lines and storm debris. The N.C. Department of Transportation has nearly 2,000 staff responding to the storm.
“Many counties in the eastern part of our state continue to face widespread power outages, flooding, and wind damage. I am confident in the ability of our local, state, and federal responders to address community needs, and I know the strength of our citizens and communities will have everyone back on their feet soon. I urge all North Carolinians to heed the advice and requests of local officials and stay off roads to allow emergency responders to get to affected areas,” said Senator Burr.
President Obama has approved a federal emergency declaration for seven counties in North Carolina which allows them to recieve federal financial assistance to help cover the costs of emergency protective measures for local governments. The disaster declaration approved by President Obama covers: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties. This important step will help residents in those counties pay for uninsured damages caused by Hurricane Irene.“We’re grateful for that rapid response,” Governor Bev Perdue said in a statement.
“Our fellow North Carolinians who suffered losses during this storm need to start rebuilding their lives now – not tomorrow.”
The declaration came after Perdue spent her third day assessing emergency response and visiting with local officials to discuss the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene. Additional counties may be added later as local, state and federal teams complete preliminary damage assessments.
Shelters remain open throughout the state, housing more than 1,000 occupants, down from a peak of more than 7,500 people in 81 shelters Saturday. Since Saturday, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have cooked and served more than 57,000 meals for evacuees and first responders. NC Baptist Men begins serving meals on monday for evacuees in Manteo, New Bern and Williamston.
Despite the devastation throughout the state, recover efforts have allowed many North Carolina beaches to be open for visitors for the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Gov. Perdue announced Sunday that much of North Carolina’s 300 miles of coastline is open for business and ready for visitors during the week leading up to Labor Day and for the holiday weekend. The safety of residents and visitors is the number- one priority and the governor urges everyone to exercise caution when traveling to the coast.
“The Outer Banks has taken a hit, and we saw damage everywhere we stopped,” Perdue said. “Lives have been lost, homes and property destroyed. But this storm could have been worse, and North Carolinians are resilient. We come together in times of need. Hurricanes are a way of life here, and we know how to deal with them. We will work with our local, state and federal partners to assess damages and to seek assistance to recover from these losses.”