President visiting hurricane-damaged North Carolina

Monday, September 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TARBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Standing at a flooded street, President
Clinton expressed amazement today at the devastation from Hurricane
Floyd and promised "we're going to be with you every step of the
way" in rebuilding damaged homes and businesses.

"The American people know that no individual can handle this
alone," the president said, announcing a package of emergency
federal assistance programs. "You all need to take advantage of
these things," he urged residents.

Clinton visited flood-stricken families taking refuge in an
emergency shelter run by the Salvation Army and Red Cross. He said
the extent of the flooding was "something you would anticipate
less than once every 500 years."

Expressing surprise at the damage, Clinton said, "No matter how
much television there is, it doesn't do it justice. You can't show
what it feels like inside for people" who have lost homes and
businesses or for farmers whose fields have been flooded and whose
livestock were destroyed.

"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.

"And we intend to do it," he said.

North Carolina Gov. James Hunt implored Clinton to "tell the
nation about this" -- about the tens of thousands of people who
have lost homes, the factories and jobs that have been flooded
away. "I'm asking that everybody in America help eastern North
Carolina," the governor said. "We need a lot more money than
everything that is headed our way."

Clinton said there was a "huge, huge problem" in housing
because many people who lost their home did not have flood
insurance because they were not in a flood plain. He said the
government would try to set up trailers on their property for
temporary housing while they rebuild.

Clinton was accompanied by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency head, James Lee Witt, who said floods from Floyd are the
worst he has seen in more than six years on the job.

"We didn't get the devastation from the wind, but we got all
the flooding which was just about as bad," Witt said as he and
Clinton arrived in North Carolina, site of some of the worst storm

Emergency food stamps will help families needing a temporary
source of low-cost food, the White House said today. A separate
Agriculture Department program will provide farm loans at less than
4 percent interest to help rebuild flooded farms and replace lost
livestock. Those programs will cover hurricane victims in any
state, the White House said.

The federal government will help fund unemployment payments for
up to 26 weeks for workers whose jobs are on hold because of storm
damage, Witt announced as he and Clinton arrived in Raleigh for a
meeting with Gov. James Hunt.

Also, the Labor Department will distribute $12 million to
temporary workers helping in cleanup, restoration and associated
clerical tasks in hurricane-damaged areas of North Carolina, the
White House said.

Clinton announced separate federal disaster aid for North
Carolina last week.

Witt said FEMA is setting up temporary water stations in North
Carolina, to provide showers, bathrooms and clean water, as well as
offices where hurricane victims can apply for a variety of federal

Witt said he will tour storm damage in New Jersey and New York
on Tuesday. Connecticut requested help Sunday, Witt said.

About 2,000 people are staying in a shelter in Tarboro,
including many who arrived ahead of Floyd on Thursday and haven't
been home since. Others were airlifted to safety with only the
clothes they had on.

"The whole town is just about inundated with water. The human
toll on individuals and farmers is as bad as I've ever seen," Witt
told reporters.

In Tarboro, the Tar River is falling slowly after cresting at 24
feet above flood stage.