North Carolina Still Tallying Costs of Deadly Weekend Tornado

November 19, 2008

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said more than 60 homes were either damaged or destroyed by a fatal tornado in North Carolina over the weekend, but the financial costs still were unclear.

Easley met with officials in Kenly after an aerial tour of areas hit by the weekend storm in Johnston and Wilson counties by air Monday, two days after tornadoes killed two people and leveled homes in the counties east of Raleigh.

He said teams are assessing the damage but told victims, “At the end of the day, we’re going to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

Easley said the severe weather displaced between 100 and 120 people from their homes, but said many are with friends and family. The Red Cross has had to provide only 10 hotel rooms.

Two people were killed in the storms: Maryland Gomez, 61, of Kenly, and Joshua Wiggins, 11, of Elm City.

Easley asked residents to be careful of the scattered debris, including downed power lines, and urged sightseers to stay away.

The governor said he doubted there would be enough damage to qualify for federal disaster assistance because that usually requires about 100 damaged structures per county. Easley said 40 homes were damaged or destroyed in Johnston County, including the Kenly area, and 26 were hit in Wilson County.

“If we have enough damage we will get (Small Business Administration) loans from the federal government,” the governor said, adding that the state can make emergency grants up to $28,000 if no federal funds are available.

“We’ll be able to handle it on the state level if that’s what we need to do,” he said.

Easley said anyone wishing to help should make contributions to the American Red Cross.

The governor was accompanied by a representative from Gov.-elect Beverly Purdue’s office and state emergency management officials.

Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service bureau in Raleigh, said the tornadoes that hit Kenly and Elm City were among six twisters spawned Saturday by two weather systems. Other tornadoes were spotted in Robeson and Sampson counties.

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