Clinton vows to help stricken Carolina as rain falls again

Tuesday, September 21st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TARBORO, N.C. (AP) -- More rain fell on North Carolina today, a
dismal and unwelcome sight to Isabelle Baker and other owners of
more than 30,000 homes damaged by the flooding caused by Hurricane

Baker did find comfort in the words of President Clinton, who
said during a visit to Tarboro on Monday that the government would
help people displaced by the deluge.

"It was a blessing for him to come here," said Baker, whose
home is submerged in nearby Princeville. "I really believe he will
get all he can to help us."

Up to 11/2 inches of rain fell before dawn today. But it wasn't
the deluge some had feared in a region that was soaked by 20 inches
of rain last week by Hurricane Floyd. And Tropical Storm Harvey,
which had been expected to bring more moisture, turned south across
Florida on a track that would take it out in the Atlantic, away
from the Carolinas.

More than 60 people were killed from the Bahamas into New
England when Floyd charged up the East Coast. In hardest hit North
Carolina, at least 36 people have died and two people are missing
and presumed dead.

The governor's office said at least 1,600 homes are damaged
beyond repair. An estimated 1,500 people were still stranded, but
most were not in life-threatening situations. Some 10,000 are
already in shelters.

Preliminary damage figures estimate the price tag for damage at
$1.3 billion, but it may exceed the $6 billion total for Hurricane
Fran in 1996, the state's costliest natural disaster in which 24
people died.

"It has become painfully clear that Hurricane Floyd, combined
with Hurricane Dennis, is shaping up to be the worst disaster North
Carolina has ever seen, and I hope we'll ever see again," state
public safety secretary Richard Moore said.

Thousands of people remain unable to return home because of
flooding that has virtually shut down the coastal plain east of
Raleigh, an area spanning 18,000 square miles and containing 2.1
million people.

Clinton toured Tarboro, one of the hardest hit towns in an area
drenched by more than 2 feet of rain from two hurricanes in two

"I urge you to keep your spirits up and know we're going to be
with you every step of the way," Clinton told several hundred
people. He announced emergency food stamps and unemployment
payments for families in need, the hiring of temporary workers for
the cleanup and low-interest loans for farmers.

"When things like this happen to some of us," the president
said, "we know they could happen to all of us. ... We know we have
a responsibility as members of the American family to help you get
back on your feet again."

Gov. Jim Hunt made a nationwide appeal for donations to a relief
fund for the state, saying "we have been hit by a terrible blow."

State officials are also grappling with the health menace caused
by rotting farm animals and sewage washed into the floodwaters. The
state is seeking incinerators to deal with an estimated 100,000
hogs, 2.4 million chickens and 500,000 turkeys killed in the

Interstate 95 reopened Monday in North Carolina for the first
time since Thursday, but about 300 other roads remained closed.

In northeastern South Carolina, scores of people have fled
low-lying areas around Conway in anticipation of the worst flooding
in more than 70 years along the Waccamaw River. The highest water
is expected next week.

"It's surely enough to make you age a couple of years," Mary
Roberts said Monday as she waited for some friends with a boat to
take her back into the flooded Savannah Bluffs area just east of

"I have lived down here for 40 years and I have never seen the
water this high," she said.

On Monday, workers piled up sandbags to protect sewage pump
stations, yellow graders shored up a main highway and Gov. Jim
Hodges asked the president to declare South Carolina a major
disaster area.