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North Carolina Governor Says Irene Caused Millions in Wind and Flood Damage

Posted on 29 Aug 2011

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North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said the state suffered “millions and millions of dollars” in wind and flood damage from Hurricane Irene, which is also blamed for the deaths of at least six people.

“It’s a much more extensive hit than anyone thought,” Perdue told reporters in Trenton, a tobacco- and cotton-growing community that was her first visit today to areas hit hard by the storm. “People were distracted by the fact that the media began to say, ‘Well, it’s not much. It’s just a Category 1.’”

The sun was shining today in North Carolina, and state teams have begun assessing the damage, Perdue said. The governor said more than 500,000 homes and businesses are still without power, and she urged residents to be patient as tree-cutting and electrical crews start working.

“They are going to spend a lot of this day cutting trees to get down the roads where the power is out,” she said. “Hot lines, that’s the big scare right now.”

Perdue, 63, a first-term Democrat, and her staff arrived by two helicopters, which landed in the lawn of the Jones County Civic Center, which was littered by yellow insulation. Winds ripped off a section of the roof yesterday, forcing about 50 evacuees to relocate to an elementary school.

Insurer Losses

Hurricane Irene may cost insurers $200 million to $400 million in losses in North Carolina and South Carolina, with about 90 percent of the total from North Carolina, according to catastrophe risk-modeler Eqecat. The firm provided the information today in an e-mailed statement.

Hurricane Floyd is the most expensive storm in state history, with estimated losses of $1.4 billion in 1999 dollars, according to the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Irene slammed into North Carolina, making landfall near Cape Lookout about 7:30 a.m. eastern time yesterday with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm dumped as much as 14 inches (36 centimeters) of rain on eastern North Carolina and extreme southeastern Virginia, with the largest amount reported at Bunyan, North Carolina, according to an advisory from the center.

There was flooding in Pamlico, Craven, Hyde and Beaufort counties, said Ernie Seneca, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Emergency Management. Responders performed 76 water rescues in Beaufort County yesterday and overnight, Seneca said in a telephone interview today from Raleigh.

Roads and Bridges

More than 200 roads and 21 bridges were closed, including a section of Interstate 95 in Halifax County because of downed trees and Highway 12, the main artery in the Outer Banks, Seneca said. There is a major breach on Highway 12 about five miles north of Rodanthe in Dare County, and several other breaches have been reported on that highway, Perdue’s office said in an e-mail.

There were at least six storm-related fatalities in North Carolina, with four more in Virginia and one in Maryland, mostly from falling trees from the wind. A woman in Pitt County was found dead this morning inside her home that had been hit by a tree, said Sergeant Jorge Brewer of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol in a telephone interview.