Hurricane Matthew damage estimated at $1.5B in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C., Oct. 18 (UPI) — More than one week after Hurricane Matthew struck North Carolina, the state is still recovering from the storm that caused $1.5 billion in property damage to 100,000 buildings, left 900,000 without power, killed at least 26 people and caused environmental problems.

A total of 3,200 homes remain without power in the state, with half in Roberson County, south of Fayetteville near the border with South Carolina. The remaining outages are in areas still affected by flooding and officials must wait until water recedes, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Meghan Miles.

“It could be weeks before we see water recede and are able to send crews,” Miles told the News Observer. “We’ll have to assess the damage at each specific location where we saw an outage and then begin repairs or even rebuilding part of the system or equipment.”

About 600 roads still were closed Monday in central and eastern North Carolina, including U.S. 70 at Kinston. Southbound Interstate 95 is restricted to one lane in two places in the state.

The Tar River was predicted to drop below major flood stage in Greenville on Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service, and the Neuse River at Kinston is expected to drop below major flood stage late Wednesday.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said 36,000 people have registered for individual federal assistance, including $17.7 million in federal money already given to individuals for clothing, housing and other needs. Also, he said 28 shelters remain open with more than 2,100 in shelters one week after the storm.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s estimate of $1.5 billion in storm damage doesn’t include costs to the state’s economy — businesses forced to close and consumers not spending.

McCrory announced Disaster Unemployment Assistance for people in 20 counties.

On Oct. 10, Moody’s Analytics said in a preliminary analysis Matthew caused between $4 billion and $5 billion in lost economic output across the United States with half in North Carolina.

The storm caused a high number of insurance claims and difficulty in processing the claims, Stuart Lindley, president of Discovery Insurance in Kinston, N.C., told ABC News.

“We’ve had record flooded vehicles and on top of that, seven of my adjusters were unable to get to work until today because of road flooding,” Lindley told ABC News on Monday. “We didn’t have a full staff to even take claims.”

But Goldman Sachs noted recovery and rebuilding efforts can stimulate the economy in areas affected.

Matthew caused more than 30 deaths in the United States. And before reaching the southeast U.S. coast, including Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, then North Carolina, the storm killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti.

Besides property damage, North Carolina is also facing environmental risks.

When the Neuse, Lumber and Tar rivers went over their banks, hundreds of hog and poultry farms were flooded, and remained under water for several days, drowning several thousand hogs and millions of chickens and turkeys. Experts fear the dead animals and their waste may be contaminating the groundwater for people who rely on wells and could threaten the ecosystems of tidal estuaries and bays.

“What this flooding does is really bring to light all the human health and environmental consequences of letting them have these open pits of [fecal] waste just sitting out there,” Mae Wu, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Washington Post.

But the North Carolina Pork Council accused the nonprofit advocacy group Waterkeepers Alliance of having “deliberately exaggerated the environmental impact” from hog lagoons. On Friday, it announced no waste pits were breached and just 11 flooded.

In 1999 during Hurricane Floyd, hog lagoons across eastern North Carolina broke open and dumped liquid and solid waste into the storm waters.

Afterward, the state bought out 42 hog operations in 103 waste lagoons. Other lagoons were moved to higher ground. But others remained.

“Storing vast quantities of fecal waste in flood plains is a serious and preventable public health threat,” Steve Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, told The Washington Post.

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