State of emergency declared

Published 1:53 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

The chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has declared a state of emergency for Beaufort County in advance of Hurricane Irene.

As a result, the county has put its emergency operations plan into motion, mobilizing its civilian and emergency workers.

“I have determined that, in the best interest of public safety and protection, it is necessary for citizens in Storm Surge, Flood prone and High wind areas of Beaufort County to Evacuate (Mandatory Order),” Chairman Jerry Langley was quoted as saying in the declaration, adding, “the remainder of the County will be in a voluntary Evacuation Status in response to Hurricane Irene’s approach. Citizens are free to use any type of legal transportation, but they are to only use the designated evacuation routes.”

The declaration notes “that once sustained winds reach 50 miles per hour and until they subside below 50 miles per hour that travel in the County should be restricted to emergency situations. This is necessary as the county could be impacted by tornadoes, severe storms, flash flooding, and low visibility during this period. The flash flooding and high winds will create a situation where rescue will be impossible.”

A violation of the ordinance may result in a fine of $100 plus court costs.

Shelters will be opened as necessary by the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross in cooperation with Beaufort County’s emergency management department.

The county could be prepared to make an announcement about shelter openings Friday morning, said Jim Chrisman, acting county manager.

The state of emergency took effect at 2 p.m. today. The state of emergency remains in effect until lifted by the county.

“Right now at the current (storm) track we’re advising residents that have had issues with flooding in past events to heed the warning of this event because we think we’ll have both a rain and a flood surge, wind surge, with this event,” Chrisman said. “We’re looking at the prediction of the National Hurricane Center and the (National Weather Service) and those predictions take the storm more in a westerly direction than previous predictions, and that causes us concern.”

Based on current predictions from the National Hurricane Center, the county is concerned about flood inundation in the Aurora and Belhaven areas, he said.

“Part of the evacuation is the low-lying areas in the county and those residents are typically aware of where those low-lying areas are,” Chrisman pointed out.

In other news, Beaufort County Schools released the following statement:

“In preparation for Hurricane Irene’s arrival in Eastern Carolina, Beaufort County Schools will dismiss 3 hours early on Friday, August 26.

This will enable students and staff to get home well before storm conditions arrive in our area. Families will be able to make final storm preparations and help reduce traffic on area roadways. We will be able to move school buses to safer, accessible locations in our county and open shelters as needed.

Please monitor local television and radio stations for updates on local conditions. We want each family to take all necessary precautions to remain safe through this storm.”