LAURINBURG — Following some urging from State Re. Garland Pierce, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s Hurricane Florence tour made a stop in Scotland County on Friday. The governor came to Bright Hopewell Baptist Church in Laurinburg after making stops in Fayetteville and Lumberton earlier in the week.
Cooper said he had already submitted Scotland County for a disaster declaration and is awaiting federal approval.
“We are going do everything we can from a state perspective, to draw out federal funds,” said Cooper.
He stressed to an overflow crowd that people can apply for FEMA assistance before the declaration.
“Over 63,000 people have registered for FEMA this morning,” said Cooper. “We expect for there to be many more — rivers are still pressing and rising in 12 different places in North Carolina.”
He added that a levy broke in Bladen County last night and around 100 people had to be pulled from the water. He got a call in the middle of the night and learned that the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard had to rescue people from the air.
“If you get a notice from local officials to evacuate, you should evacuate,” said Cooper, ” We have lost 31 people in this state so far (and) I do not want to lose another North Carolinian.”
He said that most of the deaths occurred in cars and people driving through blocked roads.
“We are telling people, if you can help it, not to drive too far away from home,” added Cooper.
Pierce said he felt ecstatic to have the governor pay a visit to his church and the county.
“I’m just delighted that he is here,” said Pierce, who pulled strings and made phone calls for the governor to appear.
Pierce, along with volunteers and members of his church, have all been providing hot meals for the public since Wednesday. Other businesses like the Stateline Children’s World Daycare have donated food and people were served before the governor arrived.
“I think we will continue to serve each day until Sunday, there has been so many people,” said Kenya Deberry, a volunteer.
Pierce publicly recognized city and state officials present, along with a Red Cross team that is still helping after the storm.
Gov. Cooper walked and dicussed many topics in the crowd, answering questions and listening to personal stories.
“Neighbor helping neighbor is gonna be one of the best ways to get through this,” said Cooper. “When a storm comes, one thing it does is it shines a light on problems that were already here, the problem of affordable housing and healthcare. The storm shows us even more that this has got to be front and center of what we do in North Carolina.”
”There are 35,000 people in Scotland County who need to hear information at town hall meetings,” said Carol McCall, county vice-chairwoman. “We want everybody to know the resources and we are working to get us back on track.”
The board has scheduled three more town hall meetings around the county — Sept. 24 for residents of East Laurinburg and Laurinburg at 4 p.m. at Scotland Place; for Wagram residents at 7 p.m. at the Wagram Recreation Center on Sept. 24; and for Laurel Hill residents on Sept. 25, at 5 p.m. at the Laurel Hill Community Center Gym.
The number to call to apply for FEMA assistance is 1-800-621-FEMA and the website is disasterassistance.gov.
Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-6139 or [email protected]