Year’s Top Stories – #2

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

With the Roanoke-Chowan proximity to the Outer Banks, citizens here are accustomed to hurricanes.

However, no matter how well local residents prepare for the arrival of a tropical weather system, it’s the aftermath that inflicts the most personal pain.

Such was the case during the days and weeks following the arrival of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27. She made landfall near Cape Lookout at 7:30 a.m. on that Saturday. Although it had significantly weakened from the Category 3 storm it was earlier in the week, it was packing winds of 90 mph with higher gusts at that time.

Locally, the Roanoke-Chowan area was pelted with winds of 50-to-70 mph with higher gusts. Most of the higher winds came later on Saturday as the eye of Irene tracked closer to the local area.

Meanwhile, the rainfall came in buckets….some spots in the local area reported in excess of 10 inches. As expected, the Cashie River spilled over its banks, flooding portions of downtown Windsor. The Ahoskie Creek also flooded, but not to the levels witnessed during storms in previous years. However, the flooding did impact local roads, especially those in low-lying areas. Some of those roads were closed for nearly one week.

Every county in the Roanoke-Chowan region imposed a State of Emergency, meaning curfews were enforced.

Power outages were widespread, prompting local providers to beef up its repair crews. More than 6,000 people worked to help restore power, including more than 2,000 workers from utilities in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina. At one point there were more than 1,100 bucket trucks in use.

Local schoolchildren, most who had just returned to class for the 2011-12 year, enjoyed an unexpected vacation.

In Northampton County, crop damage was estimated at $10.5 million while losses to residential property nearly reached $1.7 million.

Bertie County was hard hit with damages totaling $25 million. Crop losses were estimated at more than $23 million and damage to structures was near $1 million.

The hardest hit crop is tobacco, which suffered a 100 percent loss in the county to the tune of $16,835,000. Also hit hard was cotton, which was estimated at a $5.6 million loss with 20 percent of the crop devastated.

Both corn and soybeans are estimated to have been damaged to the tune of approximately half a million dollars. The corn crop is a 50 percent loss and the soybeans are a five percent loss.

Damage losses include 47 tobacco barns that were destroyed and an additional 5,000-plus chickens that were killed during the storm.

As for structural damage, Bertie County had three structures that were totally destroyed, 14 structures that received major damage and 38 with minor damage. Of that group, 40 were single-family homes, six were mobile homes, four were businesses, four were government buildings and one was an out-building. The damage estimate for those structures was in excess of $600,000.

In addition there is an estimated $250,000 worth of damage to piers, docks, and bulkheads in Bertie County.

Crop damage resulting from Irene’s stiff winds and heavy rains was estimated at $14.55 million in Hertford County. As expected, damage to tobacco ($7,711,392) and cotton ($5,893,797) topped the list.

The remaining damage was inflicted upon corn ($292,050) and soybeans ($153,960) as well as a combined $500,000 to other crops (watermelons, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes and cucumbers). Approximately 80 percent of the county’s corn crop was harvested prior to the storm.

Thanks to a federal declaration local farmers were able to apply for financial assistance to help them recover from the widespread damage to crops.

By early November, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), individual aid to Roanoke-Chowan area residents was listed at $1,751,290. The number of applications for individual aid received by FEMA from the four local counties was 2,744.

The local county-by-county breakdown (shown with number of applications and dollar amount) is as follows:

Bertie – 722; $637,602

Gates – 149; $65,996

Hertford – 762; $592,468

Northampton – 1,111; $455,224.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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