Hurricane Earl ‘breezes’ by

Published 1:56 pm Friday, September 3, 2010

Staff Writer

BELHAVEN — The town of Belhaven spent Thursday preparing for whatever Hurricane Earl would dish out overnight. It was nothing compared to what Town Manager Guinn Leverett planned for two weeks ago.
“We had a scenario that we kind of ‘war gamed’ two weeks ago which was a Category 4 (storm) coming ashore at Wilmington, being a Category 3 by the time it got to Greenville, leaving Belhaven in the right-front quadrant with a 10- to 12-foot storm surge,” Leverett said. “That’s a recipe for catastrophe. I think the town would be totally submerged under that scenario.”
So, Leverett was understandably happy to hear that Earl had altered its course and was heading toward the north and away from Beaufort County. Its counter-clockwise circulation was expected to keep the storm surge at 1 foot to 2 feet.
“It’s scary when you have hurricane-force winds sustained,” Leverett said. “Sustained is what gets you. The later we go in the day, the better the forecast looks.”
Despite the improved scenario, a limited state of emergency was declared in Beaufort County at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Beaufort County’s public schools closed two hours early Thursday and planned to open on a three-hour delay this morning. The Greater Pamlico Chapter of the American Red Cross moved into Northside and Southside high schools once the students and faculty were gone for the day to prepare for shelter openings at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Travel restrictions were imposed from 11 p.m. Thursday to 5:30 a.m. today in connection with the state of emergency. Violators faced a $100 fine.
In Hyde County, including Ocracoke Island, the mandatory evacuation that was ordered at 5 a.m. Wednesday remained in effect. The state’s ferry system was operating on a first-come, first-served basis.
The North Carolina National Guard also was placed on alert to help in the aftermath of the storm. The majority of soldiers and airmen were stationed in Edenton in preparation to support emergency operations. Two UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft and their crews were awaiting their missions at their headquarters in Salisbury.