RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Monday in 66 counties in the central and eastern sections of the state to help farmers get their harvests in ahead of a possible hit from Hurricane Matthew.
An anti-price gouging law was also put into effect as Hurricane Matthew, currently a Category 4 hurricane in the Caribbean, could hit North Carolina during the coming weekend, although its exact track remains uncertain.
“We’re going to do everything we can to be over-prepared and hopefully underwhelmed,” McCrory said.
The state of emergency will allow state officials to waive restrictions regarding weight, size and hours of operation for agricultural vehicles. McCrory urged drivers to be careful of agricultural equipment on the state’s highways and back roads.
The counties affected by the declaration are: Alamance, Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Caswell, Chatham, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Martin, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Orange, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rockingham, Sampson, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Tyrrell, Vance, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilson, and Yadkin counties
Meanwhile, a North Carolina law against price gouging was triggered Monday by the declaration of a state of emergency, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced.
“The threat of severe weather shouldn’t be an excuse to rip off North Carolinians,” Cooper warned. “If you spot someone trying to make an unfair profit off of Hurricane Matthew, let my office know about it.”
Crops such as corn, peanuts, tobacco and sweet potatoes have already suffered significant damage in many places in the state from storms that caused outbreaks of flooding in recent days, McCrory said. A hit from the hurricane could compound that damage to crops.
The state of emergency is being declared well in advance of any potential landfall by the storm to make sure that farmers have enough time to get the harvest in and then evacuate, if necessary, before it arrives.
“What we don’t want to do is have them wait until Thursday to begin having them do that expedited harvest,” McCrory said.
Already on Monday, Russ Vollmer, owner of Vollmer farm in Johnson County, was scrambling to get his strawberry crop planted.
“What we’re doing is the next few days, we’ll be working from sun up to sun down,” he said.
Once in the ground, the crop shouldn’t be bothered by the storm. But waiting until after it passes could be a big issue.
“It’s a mad dash to get the plants in the ground before the storm comes,” he said.
Recent storms could also increase the risks to large areas of North Carolina if Matthew does reach the state, McCrory said. Saturated ground could lead to a higher number of downed trees and could combine with already high rivers to exacerbate flooding.
“I’m hoping that this is a false alarm, but we can’t gamble, and we won’t gamble with people’s lives and the livelihood of many people up and down the coast,” McCrory said.
Officials also urged everyone to make sure they have emergency supplies.
“It will create issues for North Carolina, even if it just hits us with a glancing blow,” said the director of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management, Michael Sprayberry.