RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday afternoon another two deaths have been reported in the days after Hurricane Matthew, bringing the in-state total to 22.
McCrory said one person died in Lenior County when they drove around a barricade and drove into a washed out road. In Robeson County, a man fell into a hole created by an uprooted tree.
Another death has been reported but it remains unconfirmed, McCrory said.
Also in the Thursday afternoon update, McCrory said “Princeville is basically underwater.”
“I’d like to let the people of Princeville know that we will be with you and we will do everything we can to help rebuild your city,” said Governor McCrory. “We will also take steps to ensure that this type of disaster never happens again.”
Thursday afternoon’s update was the third of the day from the governor. The governor’s tone was much darker Thursday afternoon after he had just reported no new deaths overnight.
“We saw the best of North Carolina in Robeson County [Wednesday],” McCrory said. “I saw people who were resilient, people who were caring, people who were risking their life to save other people.”
The governor said the people most impacted by displacement are the poor.
“They have nothing,” he said. “The goal is to help them next.”
The recovery could take up to a year in some spots, McCrory said.
The governor also had an update regarding storm-related deaths in North Carolina.
The state had been averaging two deaths per day and almost all the deaths so far have been due to drowning. That average will now drop slightly.
There was also good news regarding power outages.
North Carolina power outages are down to 43,753 from a high of nearly 900,000.
Twelve thousand of those outages are in Robeson County, maybe the hardest hit county in the state. Four of the six shelters in Robeson County now have permanent power.
The governor said stabilizing the situation in Robeson County is one of the top priorities for the state.
McCrory also said that residents in three more counties have been approved for individual assistance from the federal government. That announcement had already been made Wednesday night.
Homeowners and renters in 23 counties can apply for individual aid. Those counties are Bertie, Beaufort, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pender, Pitt, Sampson, Robeson, Wayne and Wilson.
Additionally, 34 counties have been approved for federal funding to help cover the costs of responding to the storm. The funding will also help pay for storm debris removal.
The counties approved for storm response funding are Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne, and Wilson counties.
Preliminary damage assessments are ongoing and officials anticipate that more counties will be added to the state’s disaster declaration in the coming days.
Gov. McCrory also “bragged on Obama” during his press conference when he thanked the president and federal government for dispersing federal funds to the state and residents so quickly.
“The federal government has already dispersed $2.6 million to disaster survivors,” he said. “More than 14,000 North Carolinians’ have registered for the program.”
The federal government has also approved a $5 million early release of highway repair funds to the state that will go a long way to helping local businesses impacted by road closures.
Although there was far more good news than in any of the governor’s previous press conferences, there was still some bad news for many residents.
McCrory said that flooding is expected to peak in the next 24 hours in Pitt, Edgecombe, Bladen, Lenoir and Wayne counties.
Robeson County and Lumberton remain underwater with an additional 50 water rescues happening there Tuesday night. McCrory said there have been at least 80 air rescues made to date by North Carolina rescue helicopters. The U.S. Coast Guard has reported they’ve made at least 94 air rescues.
More than 125 people have been rescued in Wayne County.
Almost 2,300 water rescues have been made so far in the state.
Officials urge those who can to stay out of the water. In Johnston County, more than 41.5 million gallons of untreated wastewater have been discharged into the Neuse River and its tributaries and is continuing. The flood has over-topped the protective dikes at the Johnston County Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, flooding it and allowing free flow of water from the facility into the flood waters.
Because of the continued threat of flooding, and flood waters already covering cities and towns, some communities in central and eastern North Carolina are still under evacuation orders.
There have been evacuations in Greenville, Princeville, the Blackwater River Basin in Pender County, and in Lenoir County.
There is an ongoing evacuation for those in communities downstream of the Woodlake Dam in Moore County because of the threat that the dam will breach due to a hole in it.