Monday, 01 October 2018 21:14

Gov. Cooper Thanks Richmond County's First Responders, Visits Washout in Cordova

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Gov. Roy Cooper speaks with County Manager Bryan Land and Chris Fowler and Christy Leviner of von Drehle after surveying a washout at the Cordova plant. Gov. Roy Cooper speaks with County Manager Bryan Land and Chris Fowler and Christy Leviner of von Drehle after surveying a washout at the Cordova plant. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Gov. Roy Cooper visited Richmond County early Monday afternoon to thank first responders for their efforts during Hurricane Florence as he continues to tour affected areas.

The governor was greeted by Emergency Services Director Donna Wright and County Manager Bryan Land as he walked into the county Emergency Services Complex.

Wright gave him a very brief history of how the building came about as she led him to a conference room where photos of the county’s roads damaged during the storm were projected onto a screen. 

She also told them how her department helped take the 911 loads from other counties that lost communications.

“I really appreciate you guys stepping up and doing what you needed to do,” Cooper told Wright and the other first responders in the room, which included Sheriff James Clemmons and Rockingham’s police and fire chiefs, Billy Kelly and Harold Isler.

“I wanted to come to express my appreciation to leadership in Richmond County and first responders who were out there helping people, pulling people from flood waters and making sure no lives were lost in Richmond County,” Cooper said.

Cooper said there were 37 storm-related deaths across the state and more than 5,000 rescues.

Although there were less than a dozen rescues in this county, members of the Hamlet and Cordova fire departments, along with a team from New Hampshire, were sent to neighboring Scotland County to pull people to safety.

“When you go into shelters and talk to survivor after survivor after survivor, and you hear a story about a firefighter telling a senior citizen, a woman who lived by herself, she had 15 minutes to get out and water was coming under the door and she grabbed a few possessions and took them out and she didn’t have very much to start with, but what she grabbed was all she had left to her name; when you talk to these first responders who had to go out in rushing water and how they got help from 32 states … it’s what being an American is all about,” he continued.

Cooper said the state’s response to the hurricane was “well-coordinated”

The governor called Hurricane Florence a “storm of epic proportions,” and the “most devastating storm” to hit North Carolina.

“And it comes on the heels of a storm that occured only 23 months ago,” he said, in reference to 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

Greene County was added to the federal disaster list late last week, bringing the state’s total to 28, most of which are south of U.S. 64 and east of Interstate 95.

“Now we’ve got a long, but what I believe productive, road to recovery in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “We’ve been relying on volunteer groups, faith-based groups and people have really put their faith into action with this storm. It’s been amazing.”

According to the governor, the biggest challenge in the recovery is finding affordable housing for those who were flooded out.

“It was a challenge before this storm, but Hurricane Florence put a spotlight on it,” he said. “There are a lot of people in many counties in this state who have nowhere to live.

“We have a big job ahead to make sure that help them find affordable housing, that we make sure we repair all of our infrastructure … to make sure that we protect our environment and make sure families have clean water to drink and that we get the economy up and running in these counties that have been hit so hard.”

Cooper said that by working together, he believes “we can do that.”

The governor’s administration is working with the state’s congressional delegation to secure federal funding to help the rebuilding efforts. Cooper said legislation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now before the Senate.

More than 100,000 residents have filed assistance applications with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Cooper said.

“That shows you that widespread damage that we have had,” he said. “That’s only a start. We know that there are more people.”

His office will also be working with the General Assembly in the coming days to address recovery efforts, especially with the schools.

State legislators will reconvene in Raleigh on Tuesday to tackle two bills: one regarding school days; the other to appropriate funds for hurricane relief.

State Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, said Monday that that money will likely come from the state’s controversial rainy-day fund.

According to Goodman, there is currently more than $2 billion in the fund balance. In June, when it was $1.8 billion, the John Locke Foundation reported that it was the largest in the Southeast.

“I’m glad we were farsighted enough to put that money aside for a rainy day — because it came,” he said.

As for the school days, Richmond County students only missed five. However, some schools in the harder-hit areas in the east are still out due to damage to buildings. All 40 schools in Onlsow County sustained damage and two schools in Jones County will have to be demolished, WCTI-TV reported last week.

Goodman said in addition to appropriating funds to rebuild facilities, the General Assembly will “try to work out something” regarding missed days so they won’t have to make them up.

Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman, wife of the legislator, said schools are required by law to have 1,025 instructional hours each school year. Following Hurricane Matthew, she said, lawmakers forgave anything over two days for the affected areas.

“It’s really hard if you miss a day to make them up,” Rep. Goodman said, adding that there could be more time missed this winter because of snow. “I’m hoping they forgive all the days related to the storm.”

Before leaving Richmond County, Cooper rode down to the von Drehle plant in Cordova to see a major washout close to one of its buildings.

Chris Fowler, facilities and environmental coordinator, said the washout happened the Monday following the storm and the next morning he called Superior Cranes and Southern Builders to help stabilize the bank, which sits above Hitchcock Creek.

Fowler said it would cost around $400,000 to repair the damage.

“There will have to be a footer put in … and they’ll build up on top of that with rock and then add soil and plant trees in there to stabilize the bank,” he said. “Because if we just go back and put rock in there, there’s a good chance it will wash back out later.”

The company has already shelled out more than $20,000 for several truckloads of rock to keep it from eroding further.

Cooper went to survey damage in Moore County later in the afternoon. The governor has been to about 20 of the disaster areas since the storm and plans to visit them all by the end of the week.

This was the governor’s second trip to Richmond County since being elected.



Last modified on Monday, 01 October 2018 21:30