Thousands in NC displaced by flooding, NC Disaster Relief Fund underway

LUMBERTON and KINSTON, N.C. – Flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew has displaced several thousand people in N.C., and authorities were helping more evacuate on Tuesday as swollen rivers threatened a wide swath of the state. Governor Pat McCrory warned of “extremely dangerous” conditions in the coming days in central and eastern North Carolina, where several rivers were at record or near-record levels after a storm blamed for 14 deaths in the state. An additional death occurred on Monday night in Lumberton, where officials said a highway patrol officer fatally shot a man who became hostile and flashed a handgun during search-and-rescue efforts in fast-running floodwater. Nearly 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters, including about 1,200 people in the hard-hit Lumberton area, where the Lumber River had crested at almost 4 feet above the prior record set in 2004 after Hurricane Frances. Water blanketed the city of 21,000 people, leaving businesses flooded, homes with water up to their roof lines and drivers stranded after a stretch of Interstate-95 became impassable. “We lost everything,” said Sarah McCallum, 62, who was staying a shelter set up in an agricultural center after floodwaters drove her from her home of 20 years. State officials are particularly concerned about victims like McCallum, who have no flood insurance because they do not live in areas typically prone to such inundation. President Barack Obama on Monday signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will make federal funding available to people in the hardest-hit areas. NC Disaster Relief FundMcCrory activated the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund to support long-term recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew. The governor’s office is coordinating the relief fund in partnership with the United Way of North Carolina, which will serve as the administrative organization for the fund through the use of its 501(c)3 status.”A lot of communities are hurting right now in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the devastation is beyond words,” said McCrory. “Our people are resilient and this disaster relief fund will help ensure North Carolina recovers.”The NC Disaster Relief Fund financially supports long-term recovery efforts performed by groups recognized by the North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NCVOAD). The fund provides grants which can be used by member organizations to purchase building materials needed to clean, repair and/or build homes that have been damaged and/or destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.As relief efforts remain underway, McCrory is cautioning citizens about the prevalence of scams and urging people to only support trusted organizations operating in affected areas.”Unfortunately, disasters can lead to an increase in fraud or money scams,” said McCrory. “We want to ensure people know which organizations are trusted to provide the best support to affected communities. As we work together to recover from Hurricane Matthew, be aware of potential scams.”The most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007Hurricane Matthew killed at least 1,000 people in Haiti last week before barreling up the U.S. southeastern coast and killing more than 20 people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm dumped more than a foot of rain in areas of North Carolina already soaked from heavy September rainfall. It has triggered the worst flooding in the state since Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, the National Weather Service said. That storm caused devastating floods in North Carolina, resulting in 35 deaths, 7,000 destroyed homes and more than $3 billion in damages in the state. In Matthew’s wake, officials are monitoring a number of overtopped or breaching dams in addition to the threat of inland river flooding, the governor’s office said. Concerns about a potential breach of the Woodlake Dam, which led to overnight evacuations in the central North Carolina town of Spring Lake, had eased by Tuesday afternoon after it was reinforced with 700 sandbags. But there was preoccupation about Kinston, where significant flooding was already occurring from the Neuse River, which is expected to crest at about 27 feet on Saturday, just shy of the Floyd record, said National Weather Service meteorologist Lara Pagano. Retired construction worker Wesley Turner, 71, said he fled his home near Kinston with his dogs on Friday after his power went out and the water quickly rose to about chest deep. After several nights in a shelter, he did not know on Tuesday whether he had anything to return to. “I can’t get to my house because it is under water,” Turner said.