(CNN) -- Six counties in eastern North Carolina have been declared federal disaster areas after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Nicole earlier this month caused extensive flooding and subsequent damage.
Gov. Bev Perdue's office said it received notice Thursday afternoon that the federal agency had issued the declaration, which makes business and homeowners affected by the floods in Beaufort, Bertie, Craven, Hertford, Onslow and Tyrrell counties eligible for low-interest loans and grants.
"In a time when the economy is down and our people are struggling, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel after losses like these," Perdue, a Democrat, said in a press release. "Now families can take some hope from the fact that they will have help replacing some of those losses."
Eight people died in early October after Tropical Storm Nicole interacted with another low-pressure weather front to dump heavy rain from the Carolinas north to Cape Cod.
North Carolina was especially hard hit. In Bertie County, for instance, waters that reached as high as stop signs caused the full or partial closure of scores of roads. And many businesses and several historic homes in the town of Windsor ended up partially submerged.
County, state and federal emergency officials last week surveyed the storm's impact in 21 North Carolina counties, according to Perdue's office. They found damage to 420 homes -- including 60 that were destroyed -- and 80 businesses.
Homeowners who qualify for federal assistance in the six affected counties can receive up to $240,000 to repair or replace their homes and personal belongings.
Emergency management officials said that, based on preliminary estimates, they do not believe the state of North Carolina will qualify for federal funding to recoup costs for emergency measures or pay for repairs to roads, bridges or other infrastructure, according to the governor's office.