North Carolina farmers who suffered on-farm damage from the deadly tornado outbreak that spread across more than 150 miles of the state last Saturday can get some help from a recently established Tornado Emergency Hotline, established by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The phone number for the emergency line is 1-866-506-6222, and it is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The hotline became operational on April 20 and will be open this Friday and Saturday (due to Easter weekend) from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

If calling after hours, growers or landowners can leave a message and information will be provided as soon as possible.

The primary purpose of the hotline is to provide a place for farmers to get more information about assistance programs. In some cases North Carolina Department of Agriculture representatives can answer questions about disaster relief programs and in other cases the caller may be referred to other sources.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has visited the hardest hit counties, including a memorable stop in Bertie County, where 11 people died from the storm. Estimated storm damage in rural Bertie County alone has been set at $2.5 million.

Amazing amount of damage

“It’s amazing how much damage these storms did in Bertie County and even more amazing the amount of debris left behind by the storm. In some cases farmers won’t be able to harvest winter crops or plant spring crops without some kind of help in removing debris from their farms,” Troxler says.   

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Department of Corrections approved the use of minimum security inmates to assist in debris removal and to provide security and traffic control in areas that still have limited access by roads due to storm damage 

Inmate work crews are assisting with debris removal in three areas. Crews from Pasquotank Minimum Custody Unit and Tyrrell Prison Work Farm are clearing debris in Colerain. Robeson Correctional Center inmates removed debris at a school in Rowland, and crews from Duplin Correctional Center are removing debris in areas around Snow Hill.

Inmate access to private lands had been an issue, but was resolved on Wednesday to allow inmates to help with debris removal on farm land. Inmates assigned to the work crews are in minimum custody and are screened prior to being placed on jobs outside the prison facility.

To the north, Virginia also experienced damage and death as a killer tornado tore through Gloucester County in southeast Virginia on Saturday. It was an unusual type of twister for southeastern Virginia — a "long-track" F2, or EF2, as it's known under the new measuring system.

Dan Proch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, said Saturday's twister left a trail of destruction that started in Surry County and leapt two rivers before slamming down in Gloucester around 7 p.m., where it raked an 8.5-mile path that left two people dead and 60 injured.

rroberson@farmpress.com