Aerial image from over Haywood County on August 18 shows devastation from Tropical Storm Fred. Photo courtesy of WSOC and WLOS.

by Kristy Kepley-Steward, WLOS

Haywood County Emergency Services said Thursday morning two people have been confirmed dead overnight and there are around 20 people still unaccounted for, down from the reported 35 Wednesday night.

Officials are working with the medical examiner to make identification now and hope to have more information to released following the notification of next of kin.

Thursday morning, more than 200 searchers resumed their efforts along the Pigeon River, clearing areas and making preliminary assessments of damage from home to home.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Sen. Thom Tillis were both scheduled Thursday to tour the devastating storm damage in Western North Carolina following Tropical Storm Fred.

Thursday morning, Tillis was to meet with Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, Haywood County government leadership, Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher and Emergency Services Director Travis Donaldson to discuss the state of emergency and conduct a brief tour of the area at 11:30 a.m.

At 2:30 p.m. Governor Cooper will visit the region to meet with community leaders and do a tour of his own.

Ground, aerial drone and swift water rescue teams have been sent to areas hardest hit to continue the process of searching and securing.

There is significant damage to roads and bridges, especially in Cruso, with at least 10 to 15 bridges damaged or destroyed. Engineering teams will be arriving Thursday to work on assessing damage and constructing temporary bridges.

An emergency shelter at Tuscola High School is currently housing 11 people and will be open as long as there’s a need.

Information for residents

Residents hoping to access active search areas are being asked to present identification before entering restricted areas.

A new helpline is in place for anyone seeking assistance related to the storm. The helpline number is 828-356-2022. The hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Types of assistance available through the helpline:

  • Missing person information
  • Food, housing assistance
  • Special needs assistance
  • Volunteer or donation opportunities
  • Other storm-related needs

Residents with immediate, life-threatening needs, should call 911, otherwise use this number for all other needs.

Officials are also stressing the importance of avoiding downed power lines. Crews are quickly working to restore power to everyone in the region, but there are still many downed lines, especially in rural areas.

While they may not have been energized or arcing earlier as powers restored, they can become energized and deadly. Do not ever go into proximity of a downed line even if you feel it’s dead or just a phone line.

These can be energized by other means such as crossing another line miles away or someone’s generator back feeding. Residents are being asked to please report downed lines when you see them.

How to help or get help

Crestview Baptist Church is offering a free meal for lunch both Thursday and Friday for EMS workers and families in need in Haywood County. The church, located at 3258 Pisgah Dr, will be offering from between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days. If you are unable to make it to the church but need food, call 828-648-1110.

Canton First Baptist Church at 74 Academy Street, is holding a food drive Thursday, starting at noon, in conjunction with MANNA. Starting at 4 p.m. they will also be giving away meals to go and water, as long as supplies last.

donation hub has been established at the Pisgah High School for clothing, food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, etc.

State of emergency

Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Cooper declared a State of Emergency for counties impacted by the storm.

“This state of emergency will allow our first responders to get into our affected communities quickly to save lives, restore power, remove debris and bring supplies,” Cooper said.

“North Carolina is strong and resilient, and we’re committed to helping people and businesses recover as quickly as possible.”

North Carolina Emergency Management has deployed swift water rescue teams from across the state to Western North Carolina, and National Guard and Highway Patrol helicopter crews are conducting searches. More than 250 responders from across the state are involved in the search and rescue effort.

Haywood, Jackson, McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey counties have all declared local states of emergency.

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