Watauga included in federal aid request
by Anna Oakes
Gov. Pat McCrory on Sept. 12 signed an executive order declaring that a state of emergency existed in 16 Western North Carolina counties -- including Watauga -- and in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reservation as a result of severe storms, landslides and flooding in July.
The declaration allows the state to apply for aid from the Federal Highway Administration to help local governments pay for infrastructure repairs and debris removal in the affected counties, the governor's office said in a statement.
Those counties identified include Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.
"We requested and received federal aid to help many of our residents and business owners recover from this flooding, and now our local governments need help," McCrory said in the statement. "These 17 jurisdictions have done a tremendous job responding to the landslides and recovering from these devastating floods. But they need help financially to recover from these storms."
According to the governor's office, precipitation totals ranged between 10 and 20 inches over much of the foothills and mountains from July 3 through 27. Several locations reported more than 20 inches of rainfall and many counties reported the wettest July on record, it said.
Local, state, tribal and federal emergency managers have worked during the past few weeks to survey public infrastructure damages and review costs spent on repairs. Early estimates indicate damage costs totaled nearly $25 million in flood response and repairs. If approved, the presidential disaster declaration would make federal funds available to cover 75 percent of eligible costs.
Steve Sudderth, Watauga County emergency management coordinator, said damages in Blowing Rock were estimated at approximately $350,000 and Boone damages were estimated at about $15,000. Watauga County did not report any damages, he said.
N.C. Department of Transportation Highway Maintenance Engineer for Watauga County Kevin Whittington said the costs of repairs to state roads in the county were estimated between $300,000 and $400,000. Roads sustaining the most damage included Elk Creek Road, Walls Road, Watauga River Road, Roby Greene Road, Orchard Road and roads in the Baird's Creek and Shull's Mill areas.
The governor also has requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide financial assistance for farmers impacted by the summer floods, his office said.
Earlier this summer, the governor requested and received a U.S. Small
Business Administration declaration to provide financial assistance to families
and business owners to help them recover from the flooding.