OCRACOKE, N.C. (AP/WAVY) — The barrier island that suffered the most damage from Hurricane Dorian in North Carolina got another visit from Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday, and some bad news.
The people of Ocracoke Island believed FEMA disaster relief was on the way, but that turns out not to be the case. There is great disappointment and confusion.
Cooper cleared up incorrect information from newly elected North Carolina Congressman Greg Murphy (R-3rd).
According to FEMA, the only thing approved by President Trump is a pre-hurricane emergency declaration before Dorian hit. What has not been approved is a major disaster declaration for public assistance. That’s apparently what the congressman said was approved, but it is only a pending request for financial assistance that has not been decided.
Dorian’s heavy rains and storm surge 2½ weeks ago flooded Ocracoke, leaving hundreds of residents temporarily stranded. State agencies and nonprofits have provided food and water, fuel, medical care and portable toilets and showers. Ocracoke access is still limited to residents, homeowners and some others.
Ocracoke is in Hyde County, one of 13 counties in which Cooper has asked President Donald Trump to declare as disaster areas to access additional federal funds.
On Saturday, Murphy came to Ocracoke and told everyone gathered public assistance funding had been approved to help the people of Ocracoke. When the governor did a walking tour of the island he made it clear that is not the case.
Before touring Ocracoke, Cooper took a question about what Murphy meant.
“I don’t know what he said. We have made the application, and all of those are in Washington, and perhaps that is what he meant to say. Neither one of them has been approved at this point.”
Then an Ocracoke woman yelled out to the governor, “Why haven’t they been approved? What is hold up?” Cooper responded, “We would have to let [Murphy] respond to that.”
Murphy issued a statement on his Facebook page Tuesday in which he sought to clarify “some confusion” regarding FEMA assistance for Ocracoke.
There has been some confusion regarding FEMA assistance and I would like to clarify. We have been in discussions with Governor Cooper’s office as well as the White House. Part A for Public Assistance from FEMA has been approved. The state has made some new requests so Part B for Public Assistance hopefully will be approved by the end of the week. Individual Assistance from FEMA is the next step and we are committed to working with the Governor’s office, FEMA and the White House to get this aid for the people of Ocracoke as soon as possible. The people of Ocracoke had my greatest admiration for their resiliency and sense of community. #OcracokeStrongCongressman Greg Murphy
Pahl said, “There was a time on Saturday that we all felt elated by that announcement (from Murphy), and unfortunately it turns out to not be the case.”
10 On Your Side called Murphy for comment, but we were told no comment until Tuesday. When we asked Commissioner Pahl about the apparent misrepresentation of where the requests are, he said maybe the different levels of FEMA funding is just confusing. “It is a confusing issue, and the Congressman is new in office. Only three days in office, and it is understandable that somethings don’t work out as smoothly as you hope.”
Commissioner Pahl is telling residents to hold on, financial assistance will hopefully be available soon.
For the homeowners and business owners in Ocracoke who were counting on the FEMA assistance, the question still remains: where is FEMA?
FEMA public assistance timeline from Cooper’s office:
- On Sept.2, Gov. Roy Cooper requested an emergency declaration for the State of North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Dorian. On Sept. 3, the president approved the request.
- The emergency declaration authorizes emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program for all 100 counties in the state and for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
- On Sept. 13, the governor requested a major disaster declaration for Public Assistance, categories A-G, for 13 counties: Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, New Hanover, Pamlico, Pender, Sampson, Tyrrell and Washington.
- On Sept. 21, the governor made a second request for Individual Assistance for Carteret, Dare, Hyde and New Hanover counties and Public Assistance, categories A-G, for Jones County.
- As of Sept. 23, both of the governor’s requests remain under review.
- FEMA is currently assisting local officials and the State of North Carolina to conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) in affected communities.
- PDAs are an information-gathering process. It does not guarantee federal assistance.
- We want to get the whole picture of the impact. PDAs gives the state, local officials and FEMA an opportunity to view damage and assess the situation.
- As of Sept. 23, 24 counties have been identified for PA PDAs and 18 of them have been completed.
- Four counties have been identified for IA PDAs and remain ongoing.
- PDAs will continue until complete.