Sampson County will be added to a disaster list to pave way for federal relief following an uproar from residents, a sheriff, state senator and county officials in the wake of the governor’s declaration that omitted Sampson but included surrounding counties.
On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory received an expedited federal disaster declaration for 31 counties, opening the door for further federal assistance to recover from the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew — but Sampson was nowhere to be seen.
“We don’t know how the counties were chosen or why we were left off,” County assistant manager Susan Holder said Tuesday. “We contacted our state Emergency Management and the governor’s office. The state is aware of our concerns. We hope that will be resolved today.”
According to Sen. Brent Jackson, an Autryville resident, Sampson County was included on McCrory’s disaster list but not on the list compiled by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We have been told it will be added later this week,” the senator stated.
Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said Tuesday that he had been in contact with McCrory’s office, as was Jackson.
The sheriff confirmed too that Sampson would be added to the declaration to receive aid. He thanked Sampson County Emergency Management, Sampson County 911, N.C. National Guard, Swift Water Rescue Teams from all over the state and local fire, rescue and EMS, as well as Highway Patrol, Public Works, sheriff personnel and all other staff who have responded during the “catastrophic event.”
The expedited major disaster declaration will provide additional and immediate federal assistance to the state, help local and state governments augment the costs of responding to the disaster and pay to clear and remove storm debris.
Counties approved for the disaster declaration included: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Tyrrell, Washington and Wayne counties.
“A lot of people are hurting right now in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the devastation is beyond words,” McCrory said in a prepared statement. “This expedited declaration will help provide much needed and immediate federal assistance to communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew. I want to thank our federal partners for approving this declaration quickly and for their continued assistance.”
When the counties set to receive aid were announced, many in Sampson were befuddled and fuming. Sampson resident Janette Williams-Cross summed up the thoughts of many.
“Being a resident of Sampson County and knowing how much damage has been done by Hurricane Mathew, I would like to know why Governor McCrory overlooked our county as one of the counties he listed to receive relief?” she queried.
Holder said county officials were similarly perplexed, leading to the many calls to the governor’s office. Call and messages left with the governor’s office by The Independent Tuesday morning were not immediately returned.
“That money is needed to provide post-disaster assistance,” Holder remarked, “and having the items we need to get to our citizens.”
In announcing that aid would extend to Sampson, Thornton offered his thanks to the many first responders who have converged on Sampson and those already here who have put others before their families.
“These men and women have spent days away from their families to help the residents of Sampson County. Some of these men and women haven’t even had an opportunity to assess their own damages at home, but have chosen to put others first,” Thornton stated. “I’m so proud of our emergency responders. They’re, without a doubt, highly-skilled professionals who are dedicated to the citizens of Sampson County.”
He urged people to share their gratitude and also stay patient — help is on the way.
“If you see a first responder, utility worker or others who are helping, I encourage you to take the time to say thank you to them,” the sheriff said. “I urge everyone to continue to be patient. We have never experienced devastation like this, but by working together we will overcome.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.