Storms raising

Published 8:37 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

By Staff
some concerns
Officials meetingtoday to preparefor possible strikes
Contributing Editor
One is more than enough to worry about, but three tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean — with potential to become hurricanes — create plenty of concern for North Carolina residents and emergency-management officials.
Although Hurricane Gustav did not pay the Carolinas’ coast a visit, tropical storms Hanna, Ike and Josephine are churning in the Atlantic, looming as threats to the East Coast.
John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator, said emergency-management officials will meet at the county’s emergency-operations center at 1 p.m. today to continue preparations for the possibility of Hanna coming to the area. Jimmy Davis, chief of the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department, said he will attend that meeting and a meeting of city department heads at 3 p.m. today.
Those things include daily conference calls with state emergency-management officials and making sure the county’s three main shelters are prepared to handle evacuees, he said.
Davis said he’s looking for a generator to put at Station 2 to provide it power in case the city’s power system fails. A generator ordered for the station has not arrived yet, he said.
Hanna is forecast to track through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas later this week, according to James Wigenroth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport. Forecasters downgraded Hanna to tropical-storm status Tuesday morning after its winds dropped to 70 mph. Ike is expected to take a more westerly track toward Cuba, Wigenroth said Tuesday afternoon.
But Hanna may not be behaving as expected, Pack said.
One concern for city officials is the “uncertainty of where this one’s going,” Davis said about Hanna.
Pack said he’s not overly worried about three major storms being in the Atlantic. Pack said he’s confident emergency-management personnel are prepared for any or all of the storms.
Should the city activate its emergency-operations center at its new fire station, state-of-the-art equipment will be available to help the city prepare for a major storm and respond in such a storm’s aftermath. Station 2 houses the city’s emergency-operations center, in part, because the city’s headquarters station, opened in 1965, has structural problems that could result in it being evacuated if winds from a storm are forecast to reach 100 mph. The existing police station is subject to flooding during and after major storms. With the threat of a major storm, police officers and telecommunicators make arrangements to relocate to another facility.
The new emergency-operations center will be able to handle 911 calls if needed, Davis said. The center also has hurricane-tracking software, the chief said.
Gov. Mike Easley said state officials are preparing and urged residents to make emergency preparations.
Wigenroth said he doesn’t consider three named storms in the Atlantic at the same time unusual, especially in the light of forecasters earlier this year predicting a very active hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to the end of November each year.
After a hesitating a bit, Wigenroth said, “Maybe it is a little unusual. Right now, there’s very much of an active pattern.”
As Hanna continues to near the East Coast, heavy swells will be found offshore, increased wave action and significant beach erosion may be expected, he said.
The risk of rip currents along the coast of North Carolina remains strong as Hanna heads toward the East Coast, according to a coastal flood statement issued by the National Weather Service in Newport. Rip current as strong, narrow channels of water that flow away from the beach.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.