Growing The East: DOT working to reopen nearly 300 roads damaged by Hurricane Matthew

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Hundreds of roads across the state are still closed after they were damaged during Hurricane Matthew.

The task of quickly repairing them falls to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

You don’t have to drive far across eastern North Carolina to run into a road closed barricade. The reason? [There’s} major damage to many of the state’s highways because of Hurricane Matthew.

“The devastation! [I’m] just in awe because we weren’t expecting this kind of damage,” explained Len White, Lenoir Co. maintenance engineer, NCDOT. “Because back during Floyd, this part didn’t get blown out.”

That’s how Lenoir County’s DOT maintenance engineer Len White describes his reaction to first seeing the damage on NC 55.

Nearly 300 roads across the state are closed right now, down from a high of 600 closures just after the storm.

In some cases fixing the roads won’t be easy, especially in Lenoir County.

“There’s about 100 right now, plus or minus, sites like this,” said White. “They range from just shoulder washes where we have crews just go out and put dirt back in, safe it up. It goes from that to complete washouts. So it’s just a two-hour fix up to a two-day repair to a long term such as this that’s going to take a few months.”

The yellow symbols on a DOT map show all the roads currently closed in eastern North Carolina, most of them because of storm damage.

That includes Tucker Road near Simpson in Pitt County. Video from the day after the storm showed how a man drove his car into a washed out road. Luckily, he was unharmed.

In Greenville, part of Tenth Street washed away. One westbound lane remains closed.

But the most road damage in the east is in Lenoir County, impacting thousands of residents.

“I am shocked,” said J. Mac Daughtry, Lenoir County commissioner. “I’m concerned for my people in my district. My heart aches for them because this puts a lot of good people, that are working people, in a bad place. I want to see us get this fixed as soon as possible so we can restore life to normal back here.”

“Obviously, everybody’s inconvenienced,” said White. “They can’t get to the drug store, they can’t get to their favorite restaurant, so to speak. For the most part everybody has been on board, knowing it’s going to be a long-term fix for places like this.”

For now, many regularly scheduled DOT projects in the east are on hold as all of the manpower goes to storm repair.

White said more than 120 DOT employees from other parts of the state have come to help in Lenoir County.

“Everybody’s been chipping in up here to help out,” said White.

And the next time you drive up to one of those road closed barricades, White wants you to know he and his crews are working hard to make the road to recovery go as quickly as possible.

“We’ve got a lot of good employees,” said White. “We have a lot of dedicated employees. It’s been crazy hours, from the time that the rain started that Saturday morning, I think on the 8th. That week alone went 110, 115 hours. And then the next week it slowed a little bit, they’re still making over 100 hours. And the guys aren’t complaining. They have really stepped up and we knew they would.”

As far as a price tag for fixing all the damage from Matthew, that’s still to be determined.

DOT officials said they’re still assessing damage and will soon submit estimates to the state and FEMA.

Then, in some cases, outside contractors will come in to repair some of the bigger problems across the state.

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