Storm tracks to west

Published 12:41 am Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene’s shift to a more-westerly track Thursday morning got the attention of area officials, emergency personnel, residents and others.

Jim Chrisman, acting county manager, met with news media Thursday night to talk about the hurricane.

He said that, based on then-current information, Irene is predicted to come ashore near Morehead City as a Category 3 hurricane and cross into Beaufort County as a strong Category 2 hurricane.

The county and city ordered mandatory evacuation of residents and visitors in low-lying and/or flood-prone areas. They also recommended voluntary evacuations of residents in other areas of their jurisdictions.

Chrisman defined residents covered by the county’s mandatory evacuation order as “any resident in Beaufort County who has to purchase flood insurance or any Beaufort County resident who has had water in or under their house in recent past rain events.”

He also stressed that “residents who live in areas surrounded by tall pine trees or other tall trees need to heed the warning of high sustained winds.”

“We need to be prepared for this thing to come directly through Beaufort County,” Chrisman said.

Beaufort County plans to open its Emergency Operations Center today. The city anticipates opening its EOC early Saturday morning, according to Robbie Rose, chief of the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department.

Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jerry Langley and Washington Mayor Archie Jennings on Thursday each declared that a state of emergency existed within their respective jurisdictions.

The county’s SOE remains in effect until lifted by the county.

Anyone found guilty of violating the county’s SOE ordinance face a fine up to $100 and payment of court costs.

The city has imposed a curfew within the city limits from 12:01 a.m. Saturday until 5 a.m. Sunday. The sale of alcohol, firearms and ammunition are prohibited in the city from 12:01 a.m. Saturday until 5 a.m. Sunday.

Traffic on Stewart Parkway and Water Street from South Market Street to Bonner Street will be prohibited from 8 p.m. today until 5 a.m. Sunday.

Joyriding through flooded roadways in Washington in a manner that creates wakes that could damage property could result in a joyriding driver receiving a ticket for careless and reckless driving from the Washington Police Department.

“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),” 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.”

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 local shelter openings this morning, Chrisman said.

A different point of view

Paul Spruill, chief executive officer of Tideland Electric Membership Corp. and a former Beaufort County manager, said Tideland has taken and will continue to take measures to prepare for Irene’s effects on its service area.

“Throughout the system, we spend a lot of time preparing for storms via maintenance and tree-trimming,” Spruill said Thursday.

Those preparations may not be enough to forestall Irene’s impact, he noted.

“The cooperative is preparing itself for widespread outages resulting from massive damage,” Spruill said.

As county manager, Spruill faced several hurricanes and tropical storms, including Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Spruill said the midday forecast issued by the National Hurricane Center on Thursday causes him to “worry about an Isabel-type experience through the entire Tideland service area.”

Tideland encourages customers who depend on electricity for medical needs to evacuate because of expected service interruptions system wide, Spruill said.

Location matters

As with real estate, when it comes to hurricanes, the phrase to keep in mind is location, location, location, according to Greg “Rudi” Rudolph, shore protection manager for Carteret County.

During his Tropical Cyclones 101 presentation (a hurricane is a tropical cyclone) at the N.C. Estuarium in June, Rudolph said key factors to keep in mind when keeping an eye on a hurricane are intensity, duration, approach (location), surge and tide. With those factors in mind, the worst-case scenario for Washington and nearby areas would be a major hurricane (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) that’s slow-moving, approaches from the south or southwest, has major storm surge associated with it and strikes at high tide.

Because the strongest area of a hurricane (which rotates in a counter-clockwise direction) is its northeast quadrant, the northeast quadrants of hurricanes passing east of Washington are likely to miss the city, he said. A hurricane coming from the south or southwest of Washington means that northeast quadrant will be the storm’s leading punch when it strikes the city, he noted.

“A couple or 10 miles can make a big difference,” Rudolph said about the effects of a hurricane on an area.

“The moral of the story here is that if it’s a tropical storm coming straight for Little Washington, panic if it’s a category 3, 4 or 5 — really panic. You know — evacuate,” Rudolph said.

Contributing Writer Betty Mitchell Gray contributed to this article.