County officials prepare a game plan for Hanna

Published 8:45 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

By Staff
Shelters are being equipped
Staff Writer
Although Tropical Storm Hanna is hundreds of miles away, Beaufort County emergency-management officials are planning for the worst.
On Wednesday, as they planned for the worst, they were hoping for the best. That planning — and hoping — came during a planning session at the county’s emergency operations center off Highland Drive in Washington.
Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack addressed the officials, mapping out the county’s current plan for preparing for Hanna.
The county has designated Northside High School, Southside High School and P.S. Jones Middle School as hurricane-evacuation shelters, with Washington High School as an overflow first alternative.
Northside and Southside’s generators will be up and running if need be, while P.S. Jones’ generator will take time to power its gym, Pack said.
As for Washington High School, Pack said, “I don’t anticipate for this storm that we will need it.”
Pack is concerned about too many evacuees going to Northside because of the potential evacuation of Hyde County, which does not have an evacuation shelter.
Because of that possibility and the threat of flooding in low-lying Belhaven, the Northside shelter opens at noon Friday, if need be, Pack said.
A hangar at Warren Field Airport will serve as the main distribution point for recovery supplies for Beaufort County, according to Pack. He thanked Washington Fire- Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department Chief Jimmy Davis for organizing the distribution point.
Assistance, if needed, will be provided at the distribution point by the Greater Pamlico Chapter of the American Red Cross, Beaufort County United Way and, if need be, the N.C. National Guard.
Assistance from the Red Cross will be limited, though, because of cleanup efforts related to Hurricane Gustav.
Pack said area fire stations also could serve as distribution points for dispersing recovery supplies to storm victims.
When it comes to feeding evacuees, according to Pack, “The schools will use the food they have on site.”
The Beaufort County Water Department has also done its part in preparing for Hanna. The department is stockpiling water.
Belhaven has enough water on hand to last about one and a half days if it loses its water-production capability, according to Town Manager Guinn Leverett.
The worst-case scenario, according to Pack, is that the county loses U.S. Highway 17 to flooding.
To make sure that the south side of the Pamlico River is not left without protection and resources in the wake of a storm, Beaufort County Fire Marshal Curtis Avery will be stationed in a command trailer at the Chocowinity Fire Department.
Hanna is expected to make landfall north of Wilmington on Saturday morning, according to Pack. Pack hopes to have damage assessment teams in the county by Sunday morning, if they are needed.
He reminded area emergency-response officials to send documentation of any damage to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses local governments for some of their disaster-relief expenditures.
Pack also gave a few tips about going outside in the aftermath of a major storm.
Pack explained that standing water could conceal hazardous objects from view.
He also said, “Assume every downed power line is hot,” encouraging the officials to notify the public and their employees about those tips.
Pack expects the local emergency-response officials to meet for a briefing Friday evening.