Bertie added to fed disaster declaration

Published 12:10 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

WINDSOR – Bertie County is one of four new counties added to a federal disaster declaration as they work to recover from the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said on Wednesday he has not received the formal paperwork regarding this declaration. However, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory noted on Tuesday that he had been notified that a federal disaster declaration is approved for Bertie, Johnston, Wayne and Wilson.

“Our (Board of Commissioners) chairman (John Trent) was contacted Tuesday night by Congressman (G.K.) Butterfield’s office about this declaration,” Sauer stated. “Hopefully this is the starting point of a procedure that will allow FEMA to come into our county and provide grant funds to help get us back on our feet once again.”

In the meantime, Sauer said the first step was gathering information on the scars that Matthew left across the county.

“We’re now beginning the painstaking exercise of gathering damage estimates,” he stressed. “We started that process by using our reverse 9-1-1 telephone system to reach out to our county citizens, asking them to call our tax office and report what damages they incurred from the hurricane so we can begin to build a database. Performing that work now will make things smoother once FEMA arrives, if they do indeed come here.”

However, compounding the situation is that county officials and citizens are still going through all the paperwork from a storm three weeks ago that flooded Bertie and led to a state disaster declaration after over $12 million worth of damages countywide. That led to the Small Business Administration (SBA) setting up a mobile office at Bertie County DSS to take applications for low interest loans for those impacted.

“Those with damage from Tropical Storm Julia three weeks ago need to first go to the SBA to file a claim,” Sauer said.

“Now we’re faced with attempting to delineate this new damage from Matthew from the past damage caused by Julia,” he added. “I guess we all know by now that the damage from Matthew will be far greater than from Julia.”

Sauer also said Bertie residents in immediate need of food and medicine can visit the American Red Cross Mobile Unit located at the United Methodist Church on Queen Street in Windsor.

The federal declaration, which now covers 32 counties in central and eastern North Carolina, will also help augment the costs of responding to the storm, and assists in paying for storm debris removal.      

“I am committed to doing everything we possibly can to help families and communities recover from the devastating impacts caused by Matthew,” said Governor McCrory. “We appreciate the expedited federal assistance that will be critical to helping North Carolinians begin the long recovery process.”

Homeowners and renters in Bertie, Johnston, Wayne and Wilson counties are also now able to apply for federal assistance to repair or rebuild damaged homes. Those four counties joined the 10 that were approved Monday, which include Beaufort, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, and Robeson.

In addition, all 100 counties of the state will be eligible for funding to help mitigate future storm damage.

Floodwaters have swamped areas across the central and eastern part of the state, forcing more than 3,800 residents to flee to shelters, closing down stretches of major interstate highways and shuttering 34 school systems, McCrory said.

The Governor said the death toll in the state had risen to 19, mostly due to drowning, to include one locally in Gates County.

Additional damage is forthcoming as the Neuse and Tar rivers continue to rise. In Kinston, the Neuse River is expected to peak on Saturday just shy of the Floyd record,

The Tar River, which has sent thousands fleeing for higher ground in Rocky Mount, Tarboro and Princeville, is expected to cut Greenville in half. The Tar River was 10 feet above flood stage on Wednesday in Greenville and forecast to crest even higher by Friday. Flooding has forced the city’s airport to close and classes were canceled for the week for East Carolina University’s 28,000 students.

The scheduled football game tonight (Thursday) in Greenville matching ECU against Navy has been postponed.

Power outages across the state continue to fall. As of late Tuesday, outages totaled approximately 198,000 statewide, down from more than 800,000 on Sunday.

At its peak, Dominion Virginia Power said 462,000 customers in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina were impacted by Hurricane Matthew. As of Monday, that number was down to 136,600.

The governor warned of the continued environmental concerns related to the agriculture industry. The state Department of Environmental Quality has instructed all lined landfills that they can accept swine, poultry and other animals that have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew. The department has also waived boundary restrictions regarding landfills to mitigate the environmental impact.

The federal assistance approved to date will help reimburse the state for recovery efforts. In most cases, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the costs and the state will cover the remaining 25 percent of costs of responding to the disaster.

For more information, go to or download the free ReadyNC app, which has real-time weather, traffic and shelter information.

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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