North Carolina

Trump approves one of NC’s requests for disaster assistance in Dorian recovery

Governments in parts of North Carolina affected by September’s Hurricane Dorian are now able to receive federal money to aid with disaster relief, according to a release from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.

Friday, President Donald Trump approved Cooper’s Sept. 13 request for a major disaster declaration for Public Assistance in 14 counties. The approval gives governments in hard-hit areas access to federal reimbursements for debris removal, life-saving protective measures and repairing public facilities damaged during the storm, according to the release.

Trump has yet to approve Cooper’s request for a major disaster declaration for individual assistance, which the governor requested on Sept. 21 for Carteret, Dare, Hyde and New Hanover counties. Individual Assistance programs include FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (D-SNAP) and the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Loans, among others.

“This is a positive step, and we continue to urge our federal partners and North Carolina’s congressional delegation to work to expedite approval of our request for Individual Assistance for families whose homes were destroyed as well,” Cooper said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ office also released a statement Friday, saying Tillis spoke Thursday night with Trump and that the president “understood” North Carolina’s need for aid. Tillis’ office also said Reps. Dan Bishop, Greg Murphy and David Rouzer reached out to Trump about the assistance. Each congressman represents part of the area included in Cooper’s request.

“I will continue to work with the North Carolina delegation to get the Governor’s Individual Assistance request approved as North Carolinians continue to recover,” Tillis said in a statement.

Hurricane Dorian impact in NC

After causing widespread devastation in the Bahamas, Dorian made its way up the Atlantic coast. The storm ultimately made landfall in the continental United States at Cape Hatteras on the morning of Sept. 6.

As the storm drew near the coast Sept. 5, the then-Category 1 storm’s outer bands spun off tornades that caused significant impacts in Brunswick County’s Carolina Shores and Carteret County’s Emerald Isle.

Dorian also caused a record-setting storm surge of 4 to 7 feet in the village of Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. The unincorporated island in Hyde County is struggling with its recovery, made more difficult because of its remote location, only accessible via air or water.

According to Cooper’s request for Individual Assistance, 56 homes were destroyed across Carteret, Dare, Hyde and New Hanover counties, with the majority of those in Carteret. A total of about 2,000 homes in the four counties were impacted by Dorian.

The counties eligible for aid under the Public Assistance decision are Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, New Hanover, Pamlico, Pender, Sampson, Tyrrell and Washington.

According to FEMA’s disaster declaration notice, North Carolina communities are also eligible to apply for hazard mitigation projects.

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Ocracoke School has not yet returned to session, and students will be spread across different locations once classes start Monday, Hyde County Schools’ Superintendent Steve Basnight told the N.C. State Board of Education Thursday, The News & Observer reported.

“The community of Ocracoke is devastated,” Basnight said Thursday, “and I don’t use that term lightly.”

This story was produced with financial support from Report for America/GroundTruth Project, the North Carolina Community Foundation and the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund. The News & Observer maintains full editorial control of the work.

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Adam Wagner is a Report for America Corps member covering North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, as well as efforts to prepare the state for future storms. He previously worked at the Wilmington StarNews, where he covered multiple beats, including the environment.