Preparing for Earl|By CHRIST PROKOS
Staff Writer

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2010

By Staff
If Hurricane Earl decides to venture into Beaufort County later this week, officials at the Beaufort County Emergency Management Office are prepared.
“We’re going to proceed as if Earl is coming on shore and follow our county emergency-operations plan,” said John Pack, director of the Emergency Operations Center. “We have begun the process of having our entire EOC staff coming into the office for early evaluation of our preparation levels.”
Emergency managers from various city, county and state agencies were at the center Tuesday to begin executing a defense plan in conjunction with advisories from the National Weather Service.
“The state emergency operations center has plans to stand up 24/7 at noon (today),” Pack said. “The eastern branch at Kinston will stand up at the same time. It’s up to each county to decide what to do. A decision will be made (today) at the same time to decide whether to open shelters.”
A hurricane watch is in effect from Surf City to Duck, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. A tropical-storm watch is in effect from Cape Fear to Surf City.
As of Tuesday evening, Hurricane Earl was a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, but it is expected to weaken as it approaches the Outer Banks on Thursday. Pack expects Earl to pack its bags and move on by 8 a.m. Friday, but not before hitting the area with sustained 40 mph to 50 mph winds for six to seven hours. Wind gusts could reach 60 mph to 70 mph.
“Belhaven, Pantego and Aurora will have higher winds than Washington and a higher inflow of water,” Pack said.
Residents of the area are being advised to begin taking precautions.
“They should have already had a disaster-preparedness kit made up,” Pack advised. “The two items people fail to get from their homes are prescription medications. Not just a seven-day supply but the actual bottles. The same thing on critical papers: Social Security cards, insurance papers, life-insurance papers, any medical documents that are needed. Put them in a small box at the beginning of a hurricane season. These are things people forget.”
The Greater Pamlico Chapter of the American Red Cross has prepared volunteers to staff three shelters for 72 hours beginning Thursday. The primary shelter will be at Northside High School, with a secondary shelter at Southside High School. Should Earl decide to come on shore, a third shelter may be opened at P.S. Jones Middle School.
“We have the support of the state of North Carolina Red Cross along with the national Red Cross,” said chapter Executive Director Lorrie Beach. “(John Pack) decides what shelters to open, and we show up and provide materials and manpower along with DSS (Beaufort County Department of Social Services) and the health department.”
For people considering going to a shelter, the Red Cross encourages them to bring bedding items: sleeping bag, air mattress and blankets.
“You need to bring your own bedding,” Pack said. “There is no guarantee there will be a bed. Typically, they go to the elderly, and there are limited supplies of blankets and cots.”
Property owners are encouraged to look for any loose items in their yards that could become flying projectiles during a storm.
In Hyde County, emergency-management representatives were anticipating a mandatory evacuation for all residents and visitors on Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m. today. Even if Earl remained offshore, breakers on the Outer Banks could reach 15 feet and cause overwash issues.
Crews with the N.C. Department of Transportation were filling bulldozers and heavy equipment with fuel while also preparing barricades, evacuation-route markers and electronic signs. Real-time information about travel conditions, road closures, flooding, ferry cancellations and evacuation routes is available through NCDOT’s Twitter feeds at
The Salvation Army in Washington has mobilized volunteers, and its mobile kitchen is ready to roll. It also has the support of other branches in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The American Red Cross recommends the following safety steps and tips:
Disaster-supplies kit
• Gather emergency supplies including: emergency medications, nonperishable food, a nonelectric can opener, bottled water (at least three gallons per day per person), a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, extra clothes, important documents, cash and credit cards, a first-aid kit and other items for infants, elderly or disabled family members and pets.
• Store supplies in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container, such as a plastic tub with handles.
Personal evacuation plan
• Identify an evacuation route ahead of time; discuss with family members.
• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
• In case of evacuation to an American Red Cross shelter, be sure to bring the disaster supplies kit, medications, extra clothing, pillows and blankets and other hygiene and comfort supplies.
• Make advance preparations for pets so you can bring them with you when you leave, but remember, because of health-department regulations, pets aren’t allowed in public shelters.
Prepare for high winds
• Measure windows and obtain shutters or cut plywood to cover each window.
•Remove diseased and damaged tree limbs well before a storm strikes.
• Strengthen garage doors with vertical support beams made from 2-by-4 pieces of lumber and “L” brackets. Get professional help, if needed.
The local Red Cross office has brochures on how to develop an emergency plan, how to prepare a disaster supplies kit, and recovery tips after a hurricane has passed. The local office is located at 135 N. Market St. in Washington.