WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue announced plans on Friday for a temporary bridge that will allow traffic to return to parts of the Outer Banks cut off when Hurricane Irene breached the main highway.
The governor said the estimated $10 million cost of the 630-foot-long bridge and other road repairs on the barrier islands would be covered by federal funding.
Traffic should be restored to NC Highway 12 within a month, after a manufactured bridge is erected across the largest breach and all other breaches are filled in, the state said.
Officials in Dare County also announced plans for residents of storm-damaged Hatteras Island to be able to return in phases starting on Sunday.
But visitors won't be allowed back until sometime after September 17, county officials said in a release.
Hurricane Irene losses have topped $400 million in North Carolina, Perdue said on Friday.
According to preliminary damage assessments, there are more than $40 million in uninsured or underinsured home and business damages, more than $45 million in costs to local governments and more than $320 million in agricultural losses.
"Extreme drought had already withered crops and delayed harvests, resulting in even greater hurricane damage that might otherwise have occurred," Perdue wrote in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking expedited federal relief for 43 eastern counties.
(Reporting by Jim Brumm; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Bohan)