Bertie flood losses top $12 million

Published 11:01 am Monday, October 3, 2016

WINDSOR – A shade over 12 million dollars – that is the combined damage in agricultural and property value losses in Bertie County in the wake of massive flooding associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia.

Friday, Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer sent a letter to Michael Sprayberry, Director of North Carolina Emergency Management, that outlined the damage as well as making a formal request for SBA assistance and asking state officials to place the county under a Type 1 declaration.

If granted, those requests will open the door for the federal Small Business Administration to offer low interest loans and grants to Bertie County citizens and business owners impacted by this flood event.   

According to the state’s Disaster Recovery Assistance Guide, following a state declared emergency (which occurred in Bertie’s case as well as other local counties last week) and the completion of damage assessments conducted by county and state emergency management staff, the governor will issue a proclamation that defines the disaster area and declares it a Type 1, 2 or 3 Disaster. Bertie officials are requesting a Type 1 declaration. That level is defined as a smaller, more localized disaster, such as a tornado or isolated flooding. The state is able to respond to the emergency and recover without federal financial or physical assistance.

The letter to Sprayberry was very detailed in the impact the flooding had on Bertie County. It noted that the preliminary estimate for agricultural commodity losses, including livestock, are reported as $10,626,972 for this important business sector in eastern North Carolina. Property value damage assessments total $1,515,500 and combined with agricultural losses, the initial economic impact for Bertie County is $12,142,472.

Those monetary loses were prepared by the Rapid Damage

Assessment Team, a combined of state officials and those with the Bertie County Tax Office. That team began working on Monday of this week to assess the overall damage and concluded its work at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sauer said.

“Mr. Sprayberry, this is a devastating loss for our county, especially given that the Town of Windsor has now experienced three, five hundred year flood events in seventeen years,” Sauer stressed in his letter.

Sauer said of the 58 single-family homes impacted by the floodwaters, one was destroyed, 33 sustained major damage and 24 had minor damage, as reported by the assessment teams.

Additionally, 54 businesses were impacted, including 37 with major damage and 17 with minor damage.

Twelve mobile homes were destroyed and two received minor damage.

Sauer added that the flooding totally destroyed two local churches.

“At the latest count, 26 people are displaced by this flood event,” Sauer said in the letter.

During the initial response stage of the flooding event, Sauer said nearly 160 persons were rescued and safely evacuated, including the successful evacuation and transfer of 51 medical patients, most of whom were bed bound at a nursing home near Windsor.

In addition to the flood damage to many homes and businesses, Bertie County local government sustained significant damage to the Lawrence Memorial Library and the immediate loss of use for both the Cooperative Extension building and EMS Station One. All of these facilities are located in downtown Windsor.

“For nearly 72 hours, EMS Station One staff operated in temporary quarters at the Council on Aging building. It was Saturday morning, September 24, when the county contacted the Bertie school system regarding the request for shifting its base of operations for EMS Station One to the 300 Building at the Bertie Early College campus,” Sauer wrote.

He also noted that since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, EMS Station One has been impacted by floodwaters during three storm events in Windsor and this site will be abandoned for mitigation and development of green space for the town.

“It is anticipated that EMS Station One base operations will remain at the school location for a period up to 24 months while the county evaluates other sites for a permanent facility,” Sauer’s letter informed Sprayberry.

He added that the Federal Building in downtown Windsor was also flooded, forcing the shutdown of the local post office and shifting US mail operations to Williamston until a daily mobile office could be established, which occurred within 48 hours.

Bertie County began operating under a declared state of emergency at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21 as floodwaters began rising. The county’s Emergency Operations Center was subsequently activated and the first shelter was opened with the assistance of the Red Cross.

Sauer said initial emergency response calls for assistance came from the Town of Colerain, and the most significant impacts were experienced in the Town of Windsor and surrounding communities.

Local first responders were assisted by rescue units from the Town of Williamston in Martin County, in addition to deployment of swift water rescue teams from Fayetteville,

Greensboro and New Bern.

“On behalf of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners and the many families and individuals displaced by this flood event, Bertie County respectfully requests consideration for Small Business Administration low interest loans and grants for the citizens and businesses impacted by this flood event,” Sauer formally stated in his letter. Additionally, consideration is requested for a Type 1 State Declaration to ensure that the needs of these individuals and families are addressed as soon as practicable.

“Again, thank you for the diligence and support extended to Bertie County by your (Sprayberry) staff and we are also grateful to the Governor and his team for visiting Bertie County on Monday to witness the damage and recovery efforts first hand,” Sauer’s letter concluded.

As far as those recovery efforts are concerned, Sauer said on Friday that the most concentrated area remains in the heart of downtown Windsor. Streets in that area of town remain closed in order to help expedite the removal of debris.

Meanwhile, Sauer is joining all of eastern North Carolina in watching the path of Hurricane Matthew, now gaining strength in the Caribbean Sea. That storm is expected to move north along the East Coast next week.

“We hope and pray Matthew stays out over the ocean; we don’t need anything else right now to add to our misery,” Sauer stressed.

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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