WINDSOR, N.C. — Damage from flooding in eastern North Carolina approached the level of destruction left behind by Hurricane Irene in 2011, Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday.

But instead of the hurricane’s storm surge, the cause of this week’s flooding was days of rain.

“We literally have water up to people’s waist and above, and many houses have been flooded,” McCrory said at a news conference.

About 63 people across northeastern North Carolina have had to be rescued from their homes by fast-water rescue teams. Another 61 were taken to safety from threatened nursing homes.

For much of this week, the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia sat spinning off the coast, dropping anywhere from a foot of rain in parts of North Carolina to nearly 18 inches in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

Schools canceled classes, a downtown was submerged and overwhelmed sewers spewed untreated wastewater.

McCrory said the Bertie County seat of Windsor appeared to suffer the worst, although floodwaters appeared to be receding. The town of about 3,000 along the Cashie River received more than a foot of rain.

Windsor Police Chief James Lane asked people to stay out of downtown. He said business owners need a chance to assess damage after flood waters inundated the business district. The Cashie River reached 15 feet (5 meters) on Thursday, 2 feet (2/3 meter) above major flood stage.

Windsor Fire Chief Billy Smithwick said the river was dropping “pretty quickly” and that 35 homes had been damaged. The American Red Cross put that number at around 60 homes.

But other parts of northeastern North Carolina were also flooded.

A news release from Elizabeth City reported that 1 million gallons of untreated wastewater flowed into the Charles Creek and the Pasquotank River.

City manager Rich Olson told the Virginian-Pilot ( that floodwaters had overloaded manholes, sending sewage into the city’s storm water system and on into the waterways. The leakage began Wednesday and continued for about 24 hours, the city said.

School district websites in several counties also reported closings for a second day or more, including Bertie, Currituck and Hertford.

Media outlets reported that Pender County schools are operating on a two-hour delay Friday after the area received 7 inches of rain, with more on the way.

Gov. McCrory had declared a state of emergency in 11 counties Thursday.