News: Quick Takes

Almost a year after Hurricane Matthew, governor declares emergency for Irma

Debris from Hurricane Matthew (Wiki Commons photograph)
Debris from Hurricane Matthew (Wiki Commons photograph)

Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency in North Carolina to include all 100 counties in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. This comes as residents are still dealing with the effects of a hurricane that barreled into the state almost a year ago.

“There is a lot we still don’t know about this storm, but we do know that North Carolina can expect to feel some sort of effects as soon as early next week, and now is the time to get prepared,” Cooper said in a statement. “Wherever you live in North Carolina — from the mountains to the piedmont to the coast — you need to take this storm seriously, and you need to start preparing for some type of impact.”

Congress on Wednesday passed disaster relief legislation for Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas last month. The legislation provides $7.85 billion for relief projects, fully addressing President Trump’s supplemental request for short-term response needs. Damage estimates, though, range in the hundreds of billions.

North Carolina got more than $630 million in federal money for Hurricane Matthew, which hit the state in October. It could get as much as $1 billion more from several sources, including federal block grants and from North Carolina’s recently passed budget.

Matthew caused nearly $5 billion in damage and decimated communities throughout North Carolina.

“The people of Lumberton, Fayetteville, and Elizabethtown know first-hand the devastation experienced by our friends in Texas,” said Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-9th District. “Sadly, they also know how long it can take to recover. [Wednesday’s] vote to help both North Carolina and Texas is just the next step in my long-term commitment to securing necessary disaster relief funding for Cumberland, Bladen, and Robeson.”

Some $110 million in FEMA public assistance designated for North Carolina was temporarily frozen to fund immediate, life-threatening needs in Texas, Pittenger said in a statement.

The North Carolina state of emergency for Hurricane Irma became effective 8 a.m. Thursday to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to the storm, Cooper said in a news release. It also waives truck weight, size, and hours of service restrictions so that vehicles carrying essential supplies such as food, medicine, fuel or transporting livestock or crops can get their jobs done quickly.

Though much remains uncertain, the state could see wind and rain from the monstrous storm as early as Monday.

The state’s Emergency Management team began coordinating storm preparations over the Labor Day weekend with counties, state agencies and South Carolina, Virginia, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. State transportation officials also have placed crews on standby, are preparing their equipment, and are checking culverts to remove debris that may clog drainage pipes.

Irma, as of Thursday morning, was on an eastern track and just north of the Dominican Republic. The deadly Category 5 storm, which forecasters have called “potentially catastrophic,” is one of the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic. The storm brings maximum-sustained winds of 185 mph, the National Hurricane Center says. Irma is blamed for nine deaths thus far.