Governor visits Washington, anticipates comprehensive aid package

Published 5:51 pm Thursday, October 4, 2018

Two locations in Washington vital to Beaufort County’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence hosted a special visitor on Thursday — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

RELATED: Photo gallery of Gov. Roy Cooper’s visit to Washington.

The governor first visited the Beaufort County FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, located at the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center, before stopping in at the Committee of 100 Industry-Ready Building on Page Road, which has housed American Red Cross disaster recovery efforts in the weeks following Florence.

While at the DRC, Cooper spoke with local officials, volunteers and individuals who had been impacted by the storm, hearing from people who had been flooded out of homes, vehicles and rental properties.

“The different stories that you hear from the survivors of this hurricane show us that we’ve got to step up and help,” Cooper said. “I want to come to the areas that were hit — I believe I have been to 24 of the 28 counties thus far — to talk to the survivors, volunteers and local government leaders and hear the stories so that we can go back and coordinate the recovery process to be as strong, smart and quick as it can be.”

The governor encouraged those impacted by the storm to register with FEMA as a first step, saying that 110,000 North Carolinians had registered with the federal agency so far.


As to the response thus far, Cooper said that the coordination and cooperation seen before, during and after Florence has been, “unprecedented and extraordinary.”

From using flood maps developed after Hurricane Matthew to issue evacuation orders to working closely with local governments and businesses, preplanning ahead of the storm was critical in the state government’s preparations.

“Sadly, 39 people lost their lives, and we mourn for them and their families,” Cooper said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that the fatality rate would have been much higher had we not had such courageous, well-trained first responders to save people from the water, and secondly, had we not had the foresight to issue strong evacuation orders across eastern North Carolina. Hundreds of thousands of people left their homes and went west and that undoubtedly saved lives.”

RED CROSS VISIT: During the governor’s second stop in Beaufort County, Cooper visited with American Red Cross personnel operating out of the Beaufort County Committee of 100’s Industry-Ready Building, located on Page Road. (Ashley Vansant/Daily News)

In the aftermath of Florence, as the state continues to recover, Cooper stressed the need to rebuild not only quickly, but smarter.

“It’s pretty clear that we’ve had two so-called 500-year storms within 23 months of each other,” Cooper said. “We’re not looking at 500-year storms anymore. We’ve got to be resilient, we’ve got to think about prevention and rebuild in a smart way, and that means concentrating more on buyouts, elevations and making our water treatment systems and transportation more resilient.”

While Cooper said such improvements will come with a big price tag, damage assessments are underway to present in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., where elected officials have been willing to work together to get North Carolinians the aid they need.

“This storm did not hit the state with a party label and our response can’t either,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to continue to work together.”

As for the willingness to cooperate in the General Assembly, Cooper said he hopes to see a tangible result in the next two weeks in the form of a comprehensive plan that will inject state funds into recovery efforts. On Tuesday, Cooper signed a bill establishing a Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund. Contributing $50 million in state matching funds to help pull down money from the federal government, the bill passed by unanimous vote in both the N.C. House and Senate.

“So far, I’ve had good cooperation from both the majority and minority leaders in the (N.C.) House and Senate, and they appear to really want to move forward,” Cooper said. “We’re going to have a package coming forward in the next week to 10 days that is going to be comprehensive and deal with housing, mitigation, clean water and our farmers.”