Gov. Bev Perdue warned today that flooding is still a dangerous risk in parts of Eastern North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and she said the state would work quickly to reopen N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island.
Flooding remains a serious concern for a number of areas down east, Perdue said. Homes and buildings are at risk along portions of the Northeast Cape Fear and Tar rivers.
The Tar River is expected to crest Tuesday with minor flooding likely in Tarboro and Greenville. More than 100 homes and structures along the Northeast Cape Fear River near Burgaw are at risk for flooding today and Tuesday, Perdues office said.
Steve Troxler, the state agriculture commissioner, said Hurricane Irene caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop damage and left some farms devastated.
Troxler toured the state and spoke with affected farmers Sunday but said the extent of the damage and financial loss from high winds and flooding won't be known for at least several weeks. But damage to the $750-million-a-year tobacco crop alone will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.
He noted that the Category 1 hurricane skirted eastern North Carolina just as farmers were preparing to harvest tobacco, corn, cotton and other crops.
"There will be total losses in some areas," Troxler said this morning from his office in downtown Raleigh. "This is going to be a significant agricultural event in the state."
The storm-battered region east of Interstate 95 is the breadbasket of North Carolina's $70 billion-a-year agriculture industry, home to the majority of the state's corn, tobacco, soy, hog and turkey operations.
Most of the damage will be crop destruction, he said, but power outages will also cause poultry deaths at farms that experience failure of emergency backup generators.
Troxler said the state's farmers are typically federally insured for up to 65 percent of their losses. A federal declaration of disaster areas would allow farmers to take advantage of low interest loans to tide them over until next season.
The state Department of Transportation Ferry Division restored some public ferry service along the coast, but ferry access to Ocracoke and Hatteras islands today is limited to emergency responders.
Highway access to the two barrier islands was cut off when Hurricane Irene severed N.C. 12 in a few places on northern Hatteras Island this weekend. DOT opened an emergency ferry route to the island today from a dock at Stumpy Point, on the mainland side of Pamlico Sound.
Fuel trucks, telephone repair crews and DOT road maintenance workers were among the first passengers today for the 15-mile ride from Stumpy Point across Pamlico Sound to the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe.
Interviewed on Fox News, Perdue noted that N.C. 12 frequently has been damaged in past storms, and it was broken in several places this weekend
Well it is severely damaged, Perdue said. This happened here during Isabel in the early 2000s, and it took us a couple of months to fix it. There was only one breach then, and I flew over it yesterday and there were two that I saw. And I am told this morning theres three.
So it will take a while. I dont know how soon, but weve got a whole crew of Department of Transportation people and engineers there as we speak, and were trying to talk to the feds about the permits well need, Perdue said.
In all, DOT said at least 40 roads and bridges were still closed, and others were impassable because of fallen trees and power lines and other storm debris.
More than 1,000 evacuees remained today in 14 shelters, down from a peak of more than 7,500 people in 81 shelters on Saturday. The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have served 57,000 meals for evacuees and first responders. Nearly 300,000 homes and businesses are still without electrical power.
President Obama has approved a federal emergency declaration for 34 counties, making additional federal assistance available for Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hyde, Gates, Greene, Hertford, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, New Hanover, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell, Wayne, Washington and Wilson counties.
Perdue requested additional help with a federal disaster declaration today for seven counties that suffered some of the heaviest damage: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.