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Cooper declares state of emergency for western North Carolina

Governor, emergency management director tour damage

COLUMBUS — As thunder clapped above, heralding the arrival of another rainstorm, Gov. Roy Cooper visited Polk County Thursday to announce he has declared a state of emergency.

Cooper and North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry visited Polk County Thursday to make the announcement, and to tour storm-damaged areas in the region.

“We know that people’s homes, businesses have been damaged,” Cooper said.

Cooper acknowledged the three lives lost in the last few weeks, Patricia Case, of Tryon, and WYFF News 4 journalists Mike McCormick and Aaron Smeltzer, of South Carolina.

“It’s a tragedy when we lose lives and we want families to know our hearts are with [them],” Cooper said.

Cooper also announced he had declared a state of emergency for western North Carolina, which he said will hopefully help areas receive federal funding.

“I’m here today to personally view some of the damage and to meet with local officials to hear from them the troubles we know they are having and challenges they are facing,” Cooper said.

“I want to thank the emergency first responders, the law enforcement officers, department of transportation officials and the volunteers who have helped during this tragedy. We know that many of them have put their lives on the line to help others; they’ve worked tirelessly into the night and we’re very grateful for their help.”

Cooper also said their assistance will continue to be needed, as this may not be over.

“We know there’s a potential for more rain,” Cooper said. “And we need people to know that they need to continue to watch the weather forecast to determine flood watches and flood warnings.”

Cooper asks drivers who see dangers to turn around.

Cooper also said the number of people without power is now down to under 1,000, after being about 6,000 in western North Carolina.

He thanked local emergency partners who shouldered the load, and said the state has deployed search and rescue teams, with about 39 people still in shelters in western North Carolina.

There are still two shelters open, as of Thursday afternoon, with Polk County’s shelter being closed. Cooper said those shelters can be reopened if needed.

In the coming days, Cooper said state and county officials will be assessing what kind of damages are in need of state and federal funding.

Cooper also said since he has declared a state of emergency, the state’s price gauging laws are in effect and cautioned residents to make sure they contact their insurance companies, get a number of estimates and make sure to get reliable contractors to do the work.

Cooper and Sprayberry were scheduled to visit Rutherford and McDowell counties later Thursday after visiting some of Polk’s damaged areas.