After flooding and mudslides wreaked havoc in western North Carolina back in May, FEMA declined to declare a state of emergency, an administrator said Monday in a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Tuesday, Gov. Cooper said he is appealing the decision.
Three people were killed during the severe weather in Polk County, and according to the county’s EMS Director Bobby Arledge, at least 50 homes were damaged. He said 12 of those houses suffered major damage.
“There’s still at least four families that their homes were completely destroyed, and they’re not livable,” Arledge said.
Gov. Roy Cooper turned to the federal government for help. He requested a disaster declaration for 13 counties. Monday, FEMA gave its response.
An administrator wrote, “It has been determined that the damage identified in your request resulted from separate and distinct events, none of which were of the severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments.”
Local officials say those two events are the mudslide and rain from Tropical Storm Alberto that came days later.
“In our minds, from the responders side, it was one sustained event,” said Polk County Manager Marche Pittman.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Ron Ward, who lives on U.S. Highway 176, which was one of the hardest hit areas. “I don’t think the size of an event has anything to do with the government being able to come in and help us.”
In Polk County, Pittman said funds from FEMA would have helped pick up the tab for the $85,000 to $90,000 dollars spent in personnel and clean up costs, as well as money to help out people whose homes were damaged.
Arledge told 7 News the county can scrape together the money for their costs, but they said they cannot afford to help those who have had their property damaged.
“There’s no way for us to be able to support the citizens that need this type of assistance,” Arledge said. “There’s just no way.”