‘Historic’ Hurricane Florence caused more damage than Matthew and Floyd combined, governor says

Drone video shows widespread flooding in Kinston, NC following Hurricane Florence

Aerial views of flooding in Kinston, NC in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
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Aerial views of flooding in Kinston, NC in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

The state now estimates that Hurricane Florence did nearly $17 billion in damage to homes, businesses, farms and governments in North Carolina, and that as much as half of that may not be covered by private insurance or government aid.

The state had initially estimated $13 billion in damages as a result of the storm, which made landfall the morning of Sept. 14 and dumped record amounts of rain during a six-day slog across the state. The updated estimates, made late last week, are based more on actual inspections and still may be revised upward.

The latest estimates from the state Department of Insurance mean that the physical and economic harm caused by Hurricane Florence has outstripped the combined damages of two previous storms, hurricanes Matthew and Floyd. Matthew did an estimated $4.8 billion in damage in 2016, while Floyd, which caused similar flooding in Eastern North Carolina in 1999, did between $7 billion and $9.4 billion, when adjusted for inflation, according to Gov. Roy Cooper.

The state estimates that private insurance will cover $4.8 billion in storm losses from Florence. The federal government has pledged $2.5 billion in aid, and the Cooper administration has proposed spending $750 million, on top of $56 million approved by the General Assembly during a special session in early October. That leaves an estimated $8.8 billion in uncovered costs, according to Cooper’s office.

Cooper expects that the state could be eligible for as much as $5 billion more in federal aid.

According to the state, the damages caused by Hurricane Florence have topped $16.7 billion and are concentrated in three areas:

Businesses: More than 3,800 private businesses and nonprofit properties suffered water damage; more than 23,000 had wind damage. Including lost business, the total costs come to an estimated $5.7 billion.

Housing: About 1.2 million households were affected by the storm. Damage to buildings and belongings and other expenses, including temporary housing, comes to an estimated $5.6 billion.

Agriculture: Crop and livestock losses and damaged farm buildings and equipment come to an estimated $2.4 billion.

Residents of 34 counties are eligible for assistance from the federal government, including Chatham, Durham and Guilford counties that were recently added to the list. In the Triangle, Johnston, Harnett, Lee and Orange are also on the federal disaster list, but not Wake.

“Six weeks ago, Hurricane Florence’s powerful storm surges, winds and rains brought unprecedented devastation to our state, causing an estimated $17 billion in damage,” Cooper said in a statement. “I’ve spent time since then visiting with families, businesses and local officials in the impacted area and it’s clear that we have to recover smarter and stronger to better withstand future storms.”

“More than 130,000 people have registered with FEMA” for assistance, and more than $108 million in assistance has been approved so far for homeowners and renters, according to Cooper’s office.

The governor’s office also released a Damage and Needs Assessment for Florence.

Hurricane Florence is also blamed for 41 deaths in North Carolina, including 11 who drowned in cars and trucks that were swept into floodwaters.

How to get help

If your home was damaged by Florence, the deadline to register for individual assistance has just been extended, giving people until Dec. 13. The state requested additional time.

The Individual Assistance program provides homeowners and renters with temporary housing, essential home repairs, personal property replacement, and serious disaster-related needs. Disaster assistance grants do not have to be repaid and are not taxable income.

You can start the FEMA registration process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA between 7 am. and 11 p.m. Monday-Sunday, or go to disasterassistance.gov. You can also register directly at a disaster recovery center. To find center locations and current hours, download the FEMA mobile app English and Spanish, the ReadyNC app, or visit FEMA.gov/DRC. The hours will vary. In-person American Sign Language interpreters are available by calling or texting 202-655-8824.

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Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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