Officials begin planning for Irene

Published 1:54 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

With Hurricane Irene churning at sea, Pinetops resident Wayne Phillips (left) pulls his boat out of the water with help from Dwight Batts of Wilson Tuesday afternoon at Twin Lakes RV Resort in Chocowinity. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Officials across Beaufort County spent Tuesday planning for a possible visit from Hurricane Irene, which battered the Turks and Caicos Islands before taking aim at the Bahamas on Tuesday.

With Irene’s path uncertain during the next several days, John Pack is planning like Irene is heading straight toward Beaufort County.

“We’ve got the playbook. It’s a matter of calling the right plays at the right time,” said Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency management coordinator, on Tuesday afternoon about 20 minutes before the county’s Emergency Operations Center staffers were scheduled to meet to begin planning for the possibility of Irene’s effects on the county.

“We’re going to see where we are, where we need to go and how to get there,” Pack said about the EOC staff coming together.

EOC staffers are expected to meet once or twice today to evaluate the threats posed by Irene, he said.

Should projections show Irene heading toward the county during the next several days, the EOC would be activated within 48 hours of expected landfall along the state’s coast, he said.

Pack voiced concern over some Tuesday afternoon projections that showed Irene trekking for the county.

“Right now, the projection is for the eye of the storm to come over Beaufort County,” Pack said shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Later projections could have Irene taking a more easterly track.

“If it continues its easterly movement, we are going to be some happy campers,” Pack said.

Nevertheless, the county is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, he said.

Those preparations included testing the county’s reverse 911 system Tuesday night. That system makes automated telephone calls to county residents, providing them information related to the storm, including any evacuations that may be ordered.

Any evacuation order would come 72 hours before Irene is expected to reach North Carolina, Pack said.

Beaufort County Schools is also monitoring Irene for possible effects on the start of the new school year and upcoming athletic events, according to Sarah Hodges, BCS public-information officer.

BCS Athletics Director Joe Tkach has begun discussions about possible schedule changes should Irene pose a threat to eastern North Carolina, she said.

The public schools will continue to track the hurricane and announce any schedule changes as needed in the days ahead.

The staff at Beaufort Regional Health System is preparing for the storm’s possible arrival in the region, according to Pam Shadle, director of marketing and public relations for BRHS.

“From a clinical perspective, we are alerting our managers to check their units for appropriate inventory of supplies and medications and to look at their staffing needs for the days ahead,” she said. “In addition, we are encouraging our employees, especially essential staff, to make their home preparations in advance so they are available to the hospital when needed.”

“From a facility and grounds perspective, our staff is testing generators, topping off the fuel supply that runs the generators and making sure our hospital vehicles are full of fuel,” she said.

Health-system employees are checking the buildings and grounds to secure or remove loose items.

“Our goal is to plan and prepare so we can effectively manage any event that may impact our health system,” she said. “The safety and care of our patients, staff and visitors is our top priority.”

Many residents were waiting to decide the best course of action to take.

Ruth Groff spent part of Tuesday afternoon fishing at Twin Lakes RV Resort in Chocowinity. Groff lives full-time in Edenton and keeps a camper in the local RV community.

She hadn’t decided, as of Tuesday, whether to evacuate.

“I’m debating whether I want to ride it out or go home,” she said.

She’ll likely make her decision by Thursday.

Nearby, Dwight Batts of Wilson helped Wayne Phillips of Pinetops move his 21-foot-long Sea Fox boat out of the water via a boat ramp at the RV park.

Though Irene was still hundreds of miles away, Phillips wasn’t leaving his boat to chance and opted to take advantage of fair weather to remove his boat to safety.

“It’s better now than when it’s pouring rain,” Batts advised.

By late Tuesday afternoon, at least one local event had been cancelled in advance of Irene.

The East Coast Jazz Revue concert scheduled for Friday was called off because of the possibility of hurricane conditions in Washington, related Larry Turner, founder and president of ECJR.

Turner said he had discussed the concert with pianist Cedar Walton, who was set to appear with his quartet at the Washington Civic Center.

“He’s willing to reschedule with me as soon as I can get a date worked out with the Civic Center. We may do something as early as September,” Turner said.

Ticketholders interested in obtaining refunds may call the Little Shoppes of Washington at 252-833-4967.

Like other people in Beaufort County, Turner was hoping Irene would be steered out to sea, but erring on the side of caution.

“If it doesn’t happen, good,” he said. “We’re all the better for it.”

Hurricane-preparedness kit

  • Water – 1 gallon per person per day (a week’s supply of water is preferable)
  • Water purification kit or bleach
  • First-aid kit and first aid book
  • Precooked, nonperishable foods, such as canned meats, granola bars, instant soup & cereals, etc.
  • Baby supplies: formula, bottle, pacifier, soap, baby powder, clothing, blankets, baby wipes, disposable diapers, canned food and juices
  • Nonelectric can opener
  • Anti-bacterial hand wipes or gel
  • Blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • Portable radio or portable TV and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Essential medications
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Extra house keys and car keys
  • Fire extinguisher – ABC-type
  • Food, water, leash and carrier for pets
  • Cash and change
  • Seasonal change of clothing, including sturdy shoes

Sanitation supplies

  • Large plastic trash bags for waste, tarps and rain ponchos
  • Large trash cans
  • Bar soap and liquid detergent
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Feminine hygiene supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • Household bleach
  • Rubber gloves