The impacts of Hurricane Matthew and the status of the Dare County’s recovery from the storm dominated much of the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Monday evening, Oct. 17.
“My heart breaks for all those from Duck to Hatteras village who suffered damage in the storm,” said Commissioner Bob Woodard during his chairman’s remarks at the beginning of the meeting.
He said he was grateful for how much the county has been able to help storm victims and noted that the county manager and staff were working with state and federal agencies to get more help.
On his trips to Hatteras Island, especially Hatteras village, with vice-chairman Wally Overman and county manager Bobby Outten, Woodard said he has been particularly impressed with how hard folks are working to “help their neighbors get through this.”
Woodard then turned the meeting over to Outten to make more comments on Hurricane Matthew.
Outten began by talking about the days leading up to the storm’s devastating brush with Dare County on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8-9 when the northern areas of the county had flooding rains, southern Hatteras had record or near-record storm surge, and the entire county had high winds up to about 80 mph.
He noted that the county control group, which manages emergencies such as hurricanes, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the day that the National Weather Service advised them that a hurricane was possible on the Outer Banks over the weekend.
The next day, Outten said, the control group was told that Matthew’s track “would be well offshore.” On Thursday, Outten noted, there were no watches or warnings. It wasn’t until Friday morning, he said, that the forecast brought the storm closer and that a warning — a tropical storm warning, not a hurricane warning — was issued for the area.
“In the past,” Outten said, “there has not been an evacuation for a tropical storm warning.”
He said by the time the forecast began looking more threatening on Friday, the program that county manager Drew Pearson uses to estimate the amount of time needed to evacuate the county showed that an evacuation could not be accomplished during daylight hours and before conditions deteriorated.
Instead, he said, the control group used “strong messaging” to urge visitors to leave early or to postpone travel until after conditions improved.
“We were expecting only 35 to 45 mph winds,” he added.
Outten said that Frisco and Hatteras villages were the hardest hit areas of the county, and that countywide damage estimates are now up to $52.3 million with most of it in those two villages. He noted that the total is considerably less than the $170 million in damage caused by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, which also devastated Hatteras village.
Outten thanked and praised many who have been involved with recovery including the “amazing” volunteer fire departments, the “awesome” law enforcement officers, the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Dare County staff, U.S. Coast Guard, the Salvation Army, the United Methodist Men, the electric utilities.
“This is not over,” Outten said, adding that the recovery stage will last much longer.
After Outten’s remarks, the floor was opened up for public comment.
Steve House, a Republican candidate for county commissioner, talked about the storm, which he said was “bigger than anticipated,” and the recovery. He said he had visited Hatteras village and asked that the commissioners honor Mary Ellon Ballance for “exemplary citizenship” for her work organizing aid for hurricane victims in the village.
House also asked that the commissioners move their second meeting in November to Hatteras Island, so more islanders could attend the meeting.
After House spoke, the commissioners made both suggestions into the form of a motion and passed both unanimously.
The Nov. 21 meeting of the board will be at 5 p.m. on Hatteras Island, probably at the Fessenden Center.
Commissioner Allen Burrus of Hatteras village voted for both motions but did note “that it’s hard to single one person out.”
“I do commend what Mary Ellon has done,” he said, adding that a lot of other people have worked hard.
The next speaker, Rosemarie Doshier, a Democratic candidate for county commissioner, said that she was at the meeting to remind the board that East Lake does not get the attention it needs from the county and did not again in Hurricane Matthew. People had water in their houses and lost cars, she said, adding that U.S. Highway 64 was flooded in the very western area just before the Alligator River Bridge.
Two Hatteras islanders, both from Salvo, spoke during public comment from the Fessenden Center — Elaine Hooper, who works in real estate management, and her father, Jimmy Hooper, the chief of the Salvo Volunteer Fire Department.
Elaine Hooper said that the commissioners had been to Hatteras village and seen the devastation and should not have allowed visitors into the area last Saturday. She also said that given the information she received, she did not think it was true that there was not enough time for an evacuation.
“The entire system of issuing evacuations is broken and needs to be fixed,” she said. “The board need to stop being reactive and start being proactive.”
Her father was even more direct.
“The control group needs to get revamped,” he said. “Who represents Hatteras Island? No one.”
The group, he said, needs representation not just from the board chairman and the town mayors but also from Hatteras Island and East Lake and Stumpy Point.
Hooper said the telephone conference between first chiefs and emergency management were “a waste of time.”
“It’s time to put politics aside,” he said.
UPDATED DAMAGE ESTIMATES
County manager Outten shared the updated preliminary damage estimates with the board.
The estimate has grown from $42.6 million on Thursday, Oct. 13, to $52.3 million on Monday, Oct. 17.
The countywide total is 4,546 properties impacted by the storm. Of that total 407 had minor damage and 294 had major damage and six were .
Much of that, said county assessor Greta Skeen, was because damage estimators visited Hatteras village on Monday, Oct. 10, the day after the storm, and did not get back there until Friday, Oct. 14.
Most of the updated estimates were in Hatteras village, where the damage estimate increased by almost $10 million — from $12.5 million to $21 million.
Hatteras Island continued to have the highest preliminary damage figure in the county– $32.6 million, up from $23 million. Properties on Hatteras also suffered the most damage in Tropical Storm Hermine on Sept. 3.
In the update, a total of 796 structures were impacted on Hatteras Island. Twenty-eight received minor damage, 243 had major damage, and three were destroyed.
The areas with the highest concentration of properties suffering major damage were in Frisco and Hatteras village.
HATTERAS VILLAGE. A significant number of properties suffered major damage from severe soundside flooding, and flooding from excessive rainfall. Water levels in some living areas of houses were reported at 5 feet and above. Most commercial properties suffered major flood damage. Some marinas suffered major damage to their infrastructures. In Hatteras village, 746 total properties were affected. Eleven have minor damage and 179 have major damage, and two were destroyed. The preliminary total amount of damage is $21 million.
FRISCO. Properties also were significantly affected by soundside flooding and excessive rainfall in some areas. One residence in Brigand’s Bay in Frisco — on the corner of Buccaneer Drive and Freebooter — was destroyed by fire that the fire departments could not reach because of the high water levels. Another residence suffered major damage from a basement wall collapse. In Frisco, 378 properties were impacted. Fifty-seven have major damage and one was destroyed. The revised preliminary damage estimate is $8.12 million.
BUXTON. The village had minor flooding from ocean overwash and minor flooding on other areas from storm surge, rainfall, and wind. In Buxton, 54 properties were affected. One had minor damage and six had major damage. Preliminary total damage is $1.2 million.
AVON. Properties suffered minor damage from flooding and wind. In the village, 40 properties were affected and 15 had minor damage for a total of 55 properties with a revised preliminary damage total of $1.6 million.
SALVO. Eight properties were affected for a total of $257,660.
WAVES. One property was affected for a total of $6,310.
RODANTHE. Twenty properties were affected, and one had minor damage. Revised preliminary damage total is $396,285.
In the unincorporated areas of Dare County, most properties were affected by heavy rains, high winds, falling trees, and flooding. In these areas, 95 properties had minor damage and 38 had major damage with a total of 3,416 properties impacted. Revised preliminary damage in unincorporated Dare is estimated at $8.22 million.
In Dare County’s six incorporated towns, properties were damaged by high winds, flooding rainfall, falling trees. Manteo was saw damage from storm surge.
The preliminary damage total in the towns is $11.4 million. A total of 3,115 structures were affected — 284 had minor damage and 14 had major damage, and three were destroyed for a total of 3,416.
The report also notes that the storm also resulted in damage to personal property, including campers, trailers, boats, and motor vehicles that have not been collected or included. In some cases, damage to waterfront accessory structures, such as bulkheads, piers, and docks has not been included.
Click here to see the preliminary damage estimate report.
Dare County is now included in the federal government’s designation for public assistance and individual assistance.
Public expenses includes such items as debris collection, overtime for employees, and extra services and/or equipment or supplies.
Individual assistance is available to homeowners, renters and business owners in Dare County who suffered damage during Hurricane Matthew. They are urged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as they may be eligible for disaster assistance.
Assistance may include grants for temporary housing, rental assistance, and home repairs, and for other serious disaster-related needs, such as repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed personal property, and medical and dental expenses.
Outten said Dare County has not been assigned FEMA staff representatives yet, perhaps because the flooding damage in eastern North Carolina is still so widespread and ongoing.
He hopes that will happen soon, and he hopes FEMA will open two offices in Dare County — one north of Oregon Inlet and one on Hatteras Island. The county has offered FEMA space for the two offices — hopefully to make setting up the services easier and faster.
Any residents who want to get their FEMA assistance underway can do it online or by phone — https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Information regarding availability of local disaster recovery centers will be provided as details are received.
Residents of unincorporated Dare County should be getting information soon on storm debris pickup.
Dare County can get federal FEMA assistance for debris pickup by contractor TAG Grinding Services of Marietta, Ga., which estimates that the total for the services will be about $1.7 million.
Debris pickup will begin on Thursday or Friday, Oct. 20 or 21. Dare County is expected to distribute a news release, perhaps tomorrow, with details of when the pickup will start, where it will start, and the schedule of the first and second passes through neighborhoods.
Residents should get their debris out in the state right-of-way as soon as possible, but there will be more time after the first pass by TAG.
Outten said the staging area for the debris collected on Hatteras will be either the old Coast Guard base in Buxton or the Salvo Day Use Area, both properties owned by the National Park Service.
Currently, Dare has FEMA approval only for debris collection on state-maintained public roads that are not in gated communities. Outten is hopeful that private roads in the county will also be included, but FEMA has not confirmed that yet.
“One way or the other, we’ll get it all up,” he said.
Until it is known whether debris on any private roads or areas in the county will be covered by FEMA, all storm-generated debris must be placed on a public street on the public right-of-way.
Residents should separate the debris as follows:
Vegetative debris. Whole trees, tree stumps, tree branches, tree trunks and other leafy material.
Construction and demolition debris. Damaged components of buildings and structure, such as lumber and wood, wall board, glass, metal, roofing materials, tile, furnishings, and fixtures.
Household hazardous waste. Materials that are ignitable, reactive, toxic or corrosive, such as paints, cleaners, pesticides, etc.
White goods. Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heat pumps, ovens, ranges, washing machines, clothes dryers and water heaters.
Electronic waste. Computers, televisions, office electronic equipment, etc.
Only loose debris will be collected, bagged debris should not be placed on the public right-of-way.