Area braces for SandyPublished 9:33pm Thursday, October 25, 2012
As Hurricane Sandy approaches the North Carolina coast, Beaufort County emergency-management officials and power crews are preparing for a worst-case scenario and to respond if needed.
“We are and have done the necessary things,” said John Pack, the county’s emergency-management director. “We are always ready to open up a shelter, but we are tidying up some things if we need to open a shelter, basically at Northside High School. If we are going to have an area that will have to have a shelter open, it will be that end of the county.”
At 5 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Sandy was approaching the Bahamas, moving northward at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds at 105 mph.
In eastern North Carolina, according to the National Weather Services’ threat assessment for the region, the main coastal flooding threat will be on the southern portion of the Pamlico Sound and the east facing beaches north of Cape Lookout late Saturday through Sunday evening. As the low lifts further north and winds become more northwest, the flooding threat will shift to the sound side of the Outer Banks on Sunday night into Monday.
Models continue to differ on the exact track the hurricane will take, however they all indicate it will be a large system that will be close enough to the North Carolina coast to produce strong winds. Rainfall will also depend on the track, with a more offshore solution leading to amounts of 1 to 3 inches and a closer track possibly leading to 5 or more inches.
Pack said there’s the possibility that Hyde County may impose a mandatory evacuation order for its residents and visitors and ask Beaufort County to open a shelter for those evacuees. If that happens, Northside High School would be opened as a shelter, he said.
“I’ve notified all first-responder agencies to do what they do — make sure their trucks are full (of fuel). Make sure their chainsaws are sharpened. Do all those little things when we know something’s coming, or the possibility it’s coming, to make it easier for us to respond, keep roads open and help people,” Pack said.
Although forecasts have Hurricane Sandy taking a track just off the North Carolina coast, its path could change and bring it closer to the coast or onshore, Pack noted.
“It’s in the cone of uncertainty now, where it wasn’t before,” Pack said a little after noon Thursday.
Pack said he’s looking at hurricane updates, which he receives about every three hours.
“I’m looking at every one of them to see if there’s anything that sends a signal that we need to be staying on this. It’s what we do,” Pack said.
He’s working closely with Robbie Rose, Washington’s fire-rescue-EMS chief, on making sure this weekend’s Smoke on the Water event will be safe. Rose is advising Smoke on the Water officials, Pack said.
“He’s already provided some safety guidelines on possible wind gusts and tent installations and that type thing. They’ve prepared plans to take all the tents down immediately following the event and not leave any up overnight and that type thing,” Pack said. “We pay attention to all these things. We pay attention in the county and try to watch for those things.”
Spencer Stanley, one of the Washington Noon Rotarians overseeing Smoke on the Water this weekend, said the event is a go.
“Absolutely. Full steam ahead right now,” Stanley said. “I’ve been in touch, through Robbie Rose, with the emergency-management folks. They don’t expect a whole lot here (today) or even early Saturday morning. They’re forecasting maybe a tenth of an inch of rain off and on Saturday morning. It may pick up Saturday afternoon about 4 o’clock, but we’ll be pretty much wrapped up by then,” Stanley said.
City Manager Josh Kay said the city is expecting winds in the range of 20 mph to 30 mph Saturday and Sunday. Although the city has been trimming trees along its electric lines in recent days in an effort to prevent power outages, high winds will cause some power outages, he said.
“We’re prepared,” he said.
Those preparations include making sure line crews get rest and that equipment is ready to be deployed, Kay said.
Heidi Smith, spokeswoman for Tideland Electric Membership Corp., which provides electricity to some parts of Beaufort County and other areas in eastern North Carolina, said a newly revised emergency action plan is in place. Tideland is staying in touch with emergency-management officials to keep abreast with the latest storm developments, she said.
“We’ve put everybody on notice that we need to be ready … Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and where they need to be. … We have outside crews ready to come in if need be,” she said.
The Eastern North Carolina Region of the American Red Cross is gearing up to respond to Hurricane Sandy if needed.
The Red Cross has placed shelter sites and trained disaster workers from Florida to Maine on alert. It is coordinating with its community partners and emergency-management personnel to coordinate potential response efforts.