Published 3:06 am Wednesday, May 23, 2007

By Staff
The good news is that North Carolina can handle a Category 3 hurricane. The bad news is that hurricanes can be strong enough to make their ways into Category 5.
Gov. Mike Easley said Tuesday he believes the state could respond to a major hurricane, according to The Associated Press. But Easley went on to say the war in Iraq has left the state’s National Guard stretched thin. Stretched is OK, as long as the emergency isn’t too big. But when will we know what qualifies as too big?
But Easley said the war on terror has had a ripple effect in this military friendly state — and it’s an impact that North Carolina residents should be prepared for when hurricane season begins next month. Demands of the war have left the National Guard without the training time and needed resources to adequately respond to a multistate catastrophe, Easley said, according to the AP.
North Carolina should be able to weather a hurricane with winds of 111 mph to 130 mph, if Easley’s right. Hurricane Fran fit that category when it made landfall in 1996. If anything larger comes along, North Carolina will rely on other states’ help.
And that’s OK and not particularly earth shattering. But relying on other states could also mean delays in cleanup efforts, delays in response time, delays in processing paperwork after a storm has passed. Anyone who has lived in North Carolina knows the hurricane-aftermath drill, but it’s important to understand the implications of having a strained National Guard.
Easley said only 800 soldiers of the state’s 11,500 Guard members are deployed, so that shouldn’t elicit panic. But the Guard only has about half of its assigned dual-use equipment in North Carolina, and by September, usually the active part of the hurricane season, the Guard is projected to have only 60 percent of its equipment available.
National Weather Service forecasters said Tuesday they expect about 17 tropical storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean this year, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes, according to the AP. Of those anticipated storms, three to five of them are expected to fall into one of the “strong” categories, Category 3 or higher, the AP reported. In 2006, there were 10 tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, and only two made landfall in the United States.
The realities of war have the state’s National Guard and its equipment obligated in other areas. That’s understandable and necessary. The reality of living on North Carolina’s coast is that residents will have to deal with hurricanes.
His message isn’t a scare tactic and it’s not an indictment of the war. It’s merely a heads up so the state’s residents can be as prepared as possible when the next — and inevitable — storm starts brewing off the state’s coast.