Ntl. Weather Service increases tornado count

In this April 16, 2011 photo provided by Bonnie Burkett, a tornado moves through Colerain, N.C. The photographer, Richard Burkett, snapped the picture shortly before he and his wife took cover in a closet underneath their stairs. The tornado hit their barn and came over their house seconds after the picture was taken. (Richard Burkett)

April 22, 2011 10:48:51 AM PDT
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service have been working to confirm all the reported sightings of tornados last Saturday. They've now confirmed at least 28.

That's a single-day record for the state of North Carolina.

The only other time where so many twisters landed in a single day was 1984, when about 22 tornadoes were confirmed.

The Weather Service says there were initial reports of more than 60 tornadoes, but many of those could have been multiple sightings of the same twister. Some of the tornadoes traveled long distances and stayed on the ground for longer periods.

Last weekend's storms killed at least 24 people statewide and damaged thousands of buildings. Final costs of the storms are likely to be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Loans available for storm victims

Now that President Obama has declared affected North Carolina counties a disaster area, The U.S. Small Business Administration says its loans are available to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes.

The president's declaration include Bertie, Bladen, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wake, and Wilson counties.

The Small Business Administration said Friday interest rates are below three percent for homeowners and renters, three percent for non-profit organizations and four percent for businesses with repayment terms of up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are based on each applicant's financial condition.

Homeowners may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace real estate damaged by Saturday's deadly storms, plus up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property like vehicles.

Renters may be eligible for loans of up to $40,000 to repair or replace their possessions.

The first step is registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. To do that, citizens should contact FEMA at (800) 621-3362 or go to www.fema.gov.

Help for farmers

North Carolina farmers affected by the recent tornadoes now have a website and hotline offering access to resources to help them rebuild.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has set up the Agricultural Tornado Assistance Program, or AgTAP, at www.ncagr.gov/agtap .

The website provides links to resources as well as an equipment and plant exchange for farmers to connect with others with plants and equipment for sale or are in need of them. There's also a volunteer exchange forum where farmers who need extra help can ask for assistance.

Farmers without computers can call the AgTAP hotline toll-free at (866) 506-6222 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. weekdays to speak with a department representative. The hotline will also be staffed on Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Insurance help

North Carolina homeowners whose insurance claims are denied for damage caused by last weekend's tornadoes may be eligible for the Disaster Mediation Program.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is encouraging residents to request mediation for claims that have been partially or completely denied by their insurance companies. Requests must be made within 60 days and damage must have occurred in a declared disaster area.

Cars and commercial property are not eligible.

Any homeowner can file a complaint with the Department of Insurance's Consumer Services Division at (800) 546-5664.

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