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Counties Count Costs As Another Storm Threatens To Bring More Rain

By Cece Nunn and Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Oct 9, 2018
As communities in the Cape Fear region continue to recover and assess the damages from Hurricane Florence, one of the hardest-hit areas has declared a state of emergency in advance of another hurricane projected to drop rain on already saturated ground.
 
Pender County declared a state of emergency at noon Tuesday as a result of Hurricane Michael, which the National Weather Service is forecasting to be a major hurricane with an anticipated landfall in Florida on Wednesday.
 
“Pender County has been severely impacted by Hurricane Florence,” George Brown, chairman of the Pender County Board of Commissioners, stated in a news release. “Additional rainfall, high winds, and storm surge from Hurricane Michael will impact already saturated areas of the county.”

Brunswick County also declared a state of emergency emergency to take effect later this week because of the latest hurricane.

"In anticipation of Hurricane Michael, and with some continuing building damage and weakened trees, etc., from Hurricane Florence, Brunswick County has declared a State of Emergency effective 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 11," the announcement stated. "A voluntary evacuation for residents in unincorporated areas who live in low-lying or flood prone areas, or in storm-damaged homes, will take affect at the same time, and a shelter will open at West Brunswick High School."

Meanwhile, officials in the tri-county region are engaged in an ongoing effort to calculate how much damage, particularly from flooding, Hurricane Florence caused.

According to Tammy Proctor, Pender County spokeswoman and tourism director, the county's planning department is working as quickly as possible on surveying the damage before the effects of Hurricane Michael are felt, possibly by Thursday.

According to the Pender County assessment as of Oct. 2, more than 3,880 structures were damaged during Florence, more than 1,000 with minor damage, nearly 300 with major damage and a total of 96 destroyed.

Brunswick County has estimated that more than 2,000 structures in the county were damaged. As of Oct. 8, damage costs were estimated at $45 million with 262 structures suffering major damage and 597 minor damage, said County Manager Ann Hardy in an email.

Jeff Niebauer, the county’s tax administrator, said Tuesday that about 70 percent of the county has been assessed and the work is ongoing. The county has not made it out to Bald Head Island, he added.

“The recovery for Hurricane Florence will take many months, and I anticipate costs to grow over the coming months. Currently costs total about $8.5 million, and I would not be surprised for total costs to exceed $10 million-$12 million, excluding the school system, fire departments and municipal governments,” said Hardy in an email about the impact to county government.

That total includes debris collection at about $1.6 million and aerial mosquito spraying at a cost of $686,000. County payroll and benefits directly related to Hurricane Florence are about $3.1 million. The county plans to file for FEMA reimbursement for these expenses, she said.

In unincorporated New Hanover County, more than 3,600 residential buildings were damaged, 23 destroyed and more than 620 have major damage. More than 180 commercial buildings in unincorporated New Hanover County were damaged, three destroyed and 58 had major damage.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pender County officials were warning residents to pay attention to Hurricane Michael, as the National Weather Service predicted at least 2 to 4 more inches of rain with higher amounts possible resulting from the storm.

"The ground remains saturated in many areas from Florence’s rainfall, and any heavy rainfall from Michael may quickly lead to additional flooding," stated an NWS Wilmington office briefing Tuesday.

Tom Collins, Pender County's emergency manager, said in an announcement that residents should secure tarps on their rooftops, as well as lawn furniture and items that could become flying debris.

He warned residents whose homes were damaged in Hurricane Florence to be mindful of weakened structures.
 
“When the ground is this saturated, trees fall. Power lines are taken down,” he said. “If you are sheltering in place, prepare for periods of being without power. Stock up on fresh water and refresh your emergency kits.”

According to the Tuesday morning briefing from the weather service on Hurricane Michael, "Coastal flooding is expected, especially with each high tide. The highest risk for storm surge will occur Thursday, and vulnerable low spots along the beaches or those where the shoreline was weakened from Florence are at the greatest risk.

"Also, since the ground is saturated in many areas it will not take as much wind to topple weakened trees causing additional power outages."
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