Waiting, watching for Hurricane Irene

Published 10:45 pm Friday, August 26, 2011

Glenn Williams (left) of Washington boards up one of his windows Friday morning with help from Jim Helms. Williams’ top-floor apartment faces Stewart Parkway and the Pamlico River, which could see high winds and extensive flooding from Hurricane Irene. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Hurricane Irene made a slight shift to the east Friday, but the hurricane’s projected trek has it crossing the Pamlico Sound today.

After several days of making preparations in advance of Irene, local government officials and emergency response personnel expect to spend today watching and waiting — watching to see what Irene does and doesn’t do, and waiting for opportunities to respond to the storm’s effects.

As part of those preparations, two shelters were opened in Beaufort County on Friday. Those shelters, which opened at 4 p.m., are located at P.S. Jones Middle School and Washington High School. (For more details on the shelters, see accompanying article.)

“At this time, we feel very confident that the residents in low-lying areas, which is where the mandatory evacuation is listed for, will have sufficient time to evacuate to those shelters,” said Jim Chrisman, acting Beaufort County manager, on Friday. “The question we are getting … is what defines a low-lying area. There’s no simple definition for that. We’ve kind of described it as if you have to buy flood insurance, or if your house or property has ever flooded in any other rain or wind event.”

As of Friday evening, eastern North Carolina was under a hurricane warning and a flood watch, which were expected to be in place at least until tonight.

“This event is going to have storm surge and inundation from rainfall,” Chrisman said.

“We are extremely concerned with the areas of Belhaven, Pamlico Beach and Aurora as the proximity of this storm’s track have predictions for storm surge as high as 8-11 feet in those areas,” John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator, said in a news release issued Friday.

In Washington, Stewart Parkway is closed and a curfew is in effect until the state of emergency in the city has been lifted.

The following are details of the curfew:

  • No person not exempted by this proclamation shall appear in public in the geographic area described in this proclamation between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. of any day until the curfew is lifted.
  • The curfew applies to all areas within the city limits.
  • City employees acting in their official capacity, law enforcement personnel, emergency response personnel and other government employees responding in their official capacities are exempt from the curfew.

The sale, consumption, transportation and possession of alcoholic beverages in the city are prohibited until noon Monday. Possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages may occur on a person’s premises.

The possession, transportation, sale, purchase, storage and use of dangerous weapons, including, but not limited to, rifles, shotguns, pistols, other firearms or ammunition for any weapon within the city is prohibited until 8 a.m. Monday.

Belhaven has implemented its emergency-operations plan and declared a state of emergency Thursday. The town did not issue an order for residents and visitors to evacuate.

“What we really want to do is to get people to leave. Not many of us are capable of saying that we can last for three days without any basic services. That’s real hard to do,” said Town Manager Guinn Leverett. “There is going to be nothing going on in town. We are looking at twelve hours of 90-mile-an-hour winds or higher. We are also looking at a 6- to 8-foot storm surge. It is hard to think about any trees in town surviving.”

The railroad trestle across the Pamlico River at Washington likely will be closed until sometime Monday, according to an email from the supervisor of the city’s docks. With the trestle closed, boats will be unable to enter or leave Washington’s harbor at the point.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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