Gov. Cooper reacts to severe weather in western North Carolina

Anna Dollar, News Reporter

On Nov. 15, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration that requests that a SBA disaster declaration for Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties after being hit with severe weather such as the high winds, tornadoes and floods on Oct. 23.

“The majority of the damage involved residential structures, but we also had around 20 damaged commercial structures,” Taylor Marsh, the Watauga County emergency management coordinator said. “There was also significant damage to roads around the county where culverts and storm drains couldn’t handle the water. When the culverts and storm drains backed up, it started running down roads and washing out stream banks.”

According to the Watauga Democrat, the extensive flooding in Boone damaged more than 40 apartment units with more than 2 feet of water.

“A disaster declaration is one of the first procedural steps necessary to provide financial assistance to individuals, families, business owners or even local governments after a disaster,” communications officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Emergency Management Julia Jarema said. “In smaller disasters, like the October 23 storms in Watauga, the counties may ask the state for funding help. In larger disasters like Hurricane Matthew, the state may ask the federal government, i.e. the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for funding assistance.”

Jarema also said how the goal behind these disaster recovery programs is to help people bounce back after disaster strikes.

“The loans provided through the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA can be used to pay for disaster-related damages to homes or businesses,” Jarema said in an email. “Depending on the disaster, amounts could vary, but homeowners often can borrow as much as $200,000 to fix or replace their main home. Homeowners and renters can borrow as much as $40,000 to replace personal property such as clothing, appliances, etc. lost in the disaster. Loan amounts and terms are figured out on a case-by-case basis. Interest rates are very low. Payment terms as long as 30 years are intended to make the loans affordable.”

Even if homeowners and renters do not want or do not expect a loan, Jarema said that they should still do the SBA application. As for those who may not qualify for a loan, a SBA loan application is necessary in order to receive either a state or FEMA grant.

The Ready NC website has information about how people can plan and prepare for when bad weather strikes, stay informed, recover and rebuild if needed and volunteer to help others that may have been hit.

Story by Anna Dollar, News Reporter