Boots on the ground

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, October 18, 2016

WINDSOR – Recovery from the devastating impact that Hurricane Matthew inflicted on Bertie County is in full swing, including representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with “boots on the ground” locally.

Meanwhile, county officials are anticipating the completion later this week of an assessment of damages countywide left in the wake of Matthew. Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said on Monday that he expects those physical scars to be far greater than the $12.1 million in damage the county suffered from the massive flooding associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia back in late September.

“The damage from Matthew is more widespread across the county than it was during Julia,” Sauer said. “We began performing a damage assessment the middle of last week. In some locations we had to first wait for the flooding to subside before sending in an assessment team.”

As expected, Sauer said many residents of the county and its municipalities were still in the process of recovering from Julia’s flooding rains, up to 17 inches in some areas, and then were hit hard again by the effects from Matthew, which impacted the eastern part of the state on Oct. 7-8.

“We’ve experience a double whammy here in Bertie County,” Sauer noted.

In the wake of both storms, Bertie received assistance.

Julia’s damage resulted in the Type 1 declaration from the state, which opened the door for the Small Business Administration to come in and provide low interest loans.

With the damage heavier due to Hurricane Matthew, Bertie was among several North Carolina counties to be declared for federal aid, which brings a wider variety of assistance for county residents.

“FEMA sent a team here last week to meet with our residents who had registered with them online for assistance,” said Bertie Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper.

Cooper said he met yesterday (Monday) with FEMA officials in Windsor.

“That team is here now looking for ways to meet the short-term housing needs for our citizens whose homes were flooded or damaged during Matthew,” Cooper said. “They (FEMA) are seeking places that can be used for multi-family housing. The down side to that is there are not a lot of such locations in our county. FEMA may have to seek rental spaces in our mobile home parks to accommodate affected families in the short term.”

Cooper called Monday’s meeting with FEMA as, “the very early stages of the planning process.”

“We’re hoping in the next couple of days that a damage assessment team from FEMA will begin the process of meeting face-to-face with our homeowners impacted by the hurricane,” Cooper remarked, adding that those individuals have been pre-determined for federal assistance by the county’s tax office. “The end goal for us will be to have FEMA come here and set-up an office.”

Meanwhile, other federal officials have recently visited Bertie County and Windsor in the wake of the second wave of massive flooding.

“We had (U.S) Congressman G.K. Butterfield here last week and then, this past Saturday, (U.S.) Senator Richard Burr paid us a visit,” said Sauer. “We thank them both for coming and taking the time to look around and assess the magnitude of our situation here. Senator Burr on Saturday provided some very good information on how we can communicate our issues with the federal agencies that will come to our aid. Our meetings with Senator Burr and Congressman Butterfield were very productive.”

Bertie County was also visited by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory just a few days after the flooding rains from Tropical Storm Julia on Sept. 19-21.

From that storm, Bertie suffered estimated agricultural commodity losses, including livestock, of $10,626,972. Property value damage assessments totaled $1,515,500 and combined with agricultural losses, the initial economic impact for Bertie County from Tropical Storm Julia is $12,142,472.

As Sauer noted, he expects those losses to be much higher from Hurricane Matthew.

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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