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Easley vows state aid for Cabarrus County

Preliminary estimates of property damage in Concord and Kannapolis after Wednesday's flooding approached $3million Thursday, and that figure is expected to rise sharply in coming days.

That figure doesn't include damages in Harrisburg and unincorporated parts of Cabarrus County, or figures on many pieces of private property. Those estimates aren't complete yet.

Gov. Mike Easley flew into Concord Regional Airport on Thursday for a briefing on flood damage.

“Although the Rocky River has crested, if it rains, it'll go higher,” Easley said. “(The rivers) have crested earlier than we thought, and that's good. The bad news is they crested pretty high.”

After this week's flooding – the result of 11.4 inches of rain in two days from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay – 200 Cabarrus residents had to be evacuated, some through swift-water rescues, and 70 mostly residential structures in Cabarrus were damaged.

Seventeen of those structures had “major damage,” Easley said.

Hundreds of residents in Mecklenburg County also were evacuated. But there were no injuries or deaths in the region.

“It's been an outstanding response all across the state, especially here in Cabarrus,” Easley said. “They truly did save lives.”

Damage assessment teams are still gathering information. State teams will hit the ground today. By Tuesday, Cabarrus may get firmer damage estimates and find out what state and federal relief may be available, and what loans or programs residents may qualify for.

Cabarrus County officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday. State government must wait until all damage figures are in before taking action, Easley said.

The state can declare a disaster area when damages are severe enough to qualify for federal or state assistance.

“We're going to do everything we can to make everything whole,” Easley said.

On the bright side, only eight Cabarrus County roads were closed Thursday, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Twenty had been closed Wednesday, said Bobby Smith, emergency management director for Cabarrus.

Five Red Cross shelters in Cabarrus closed Thursday after providing haven for 22 flooded-out residents. Easley said the 200 evacuated residents had found places to stay with friends or relatives.

Pam Carpenter, 56, previously lost a house to a fire and a trailer to a twister. She has custody of her 31/2-year-old granddaughter, Shealynn Furr.

Carpenter awoke at 4 a.m. Wednesday and waded into her latest problem: She descended a couple stairs in her Concord house off Poplar Tent Road and found herself knee-deep in water.

Irish Buffalo Creek had flooded her living room.

“Everything was floating,” she said.

The carpet was peeling off the floor, and a heater was floating on its side. Nearby, her and Shealynn's shoes bobbed on the water.

The place she had rented for three years smelled like a sewer.

Carpenter doesn't have insurance and has contacted the Cabarrus County Chapter of the American Red Cross. She's staying with her son nearby until she can move back into her house. Friends and family have helped clean up.

On Thursday, a ruined couch sat outside the house. A chair and TV already had been tossed away, as had several Disney DVDs. When Carpenter picked up Shealynn's pink talking pony, water hissed out of its side. Mud caked the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator.

Surveying the damage, Carpenter said, “I reckon we was lucky.… Our lives are more important.”

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