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Governor warns of Hurricane Michael, sets priorities on Florence

Gov. Roy Cooper warned North Carolina residents about Hurricane Michael, a storm that will bring heavy rain and tropical storm force winds less than a month after Hurricane Florence devastated parts of North Carolina. 

While not as powerful as Florence, Cooper told residents not to underestimate it. 

“Make no mistake, Hurricane Michael is a dreadful storm,” he said. 

A number of eastern North Carolina counties are under a tropical storm warning while other counties are under a watch. Cooper said the storm’s effect will arrive overnight with the hardest rain coming tomorrow and tomorrow night. He said the force of the storm’s winds could bring down trees already weakened by Florence, rip tarps off roofs of houses damaged by the previous hurricane, and can cause flash flooding and river flooding. Cooper said coastal areas can expect both flooding and storm surge. While Michael is anticipated to move through the state more quickly than Florence, Cooper said it could still bring up to seven inches of rain in some places. 

“The last thing people cleaning up from Florence need now is more wind and rain,” Cooper said. 

The governor has declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, which will allow state resources to be used in aid of localities. He has also activated the National Guard. 

Cooper also announced his legislative priorities ahead of a special session of the General Assembly Monday where lawmakers will act further to address the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. 

In a special session on Oct. 2, legislators appropriated money, excused missed school days, and ensured that teachers, educators, and staff of public schools will continue to be paid even while they’re out of school. 

In the press conference today, Cooper called Hurricane Florence unprecedented, and suggested a $1.1 billion funding package to help the state recover. He said the estimates are that Florence caused $13 billion worth of damages, some of which will be covered by private insurance and federal government intervention, but he said the state will still have a lot of uncovered costs that need to be addressed. He said he will ask lawmakers to make a $750 million “down payment” into a Hurricane Florence Recovery Fund next week. 

“An unprecedented storm requires an unprecedented response,” he said. 

Cooper said the money he is asking lawmakers for would be covered by money the state already has and wouldn’t require taxes. 

Hurricane Florence recovery for the state’s education system is covered under Cooper’s request. He is asking the General Assembly for $74 million for education in the areas of public schools, community colleges, and the university system combined, though he only wants a down payment of $65 million next week. Of that, $50 million will be administered through the state Department of Public Instruction for things such as capital and operations needs, and $5 million through the NC Community College System. 

More than 680 public schools and 28 community colleges are located in counties labeled as disaster areas, he said. As of today, Cooper said seven school systems remain closed, with 139 schools offline and almost 90,000 students out of class as a result. 

“I’m proposing significant help for all of these education institutions,” Cooper said. 

Here are the full budget documents. 

Here are other budget documents. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.