County EMS keeps eye on Sandy

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, October 25, 2012


Beaufort County emergency-management officials are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Sandy as it approaches the North Carolina coast and preparing to respond if needed.

“We are and have done the necessary things,” said John Pack, the county’s emergency-management director. “We are always ready to open up a shelter, but we are tidying up some things if we need to open a shelter, basically at Northside High School. If we are going to have an area that will have to have a shelter open, it will be that end of the county. It looks like it will be the eastern end of the county that will be impacted the most.”

At 11 a.m. Thursday, Hurricane Sandy was approaching the Bahamas, moving northward at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds at 105 mph.

Pack said there’s the possibility that Hyde County may impose a mandatory evacuation order for its residents and visitors and ask Beaufort County to open a shelter for those evacuees, Pack said. If that happens, Northside High School would be opened as a shelter, he said.

“I’ve notified all first-responder agencies to do what they do — make sure their trucks are full (of fuel), make sure their chainsaws are sharpened. Do all those little things when we know something’s coming, or the possibility it’s coming, to make it easier for us to respond, keep roads open and help people,” Pack said.

Although forecasts have Hurricane Sandy taking a track just off the North Carolina coast, its path could change and bring it closer to the coast or onshore, Pack noted.

“It’s in the cone of uncertainty now, where it wasn’t before,” Pack said a little after noon Thursday.

Pack said he’s looking at hurricane updates, which he receives about every three hours.

“I’m looking at every one of them to see if there’s anything that sends a signal that we need to be staying on this. It’s what we do,” Pack said.

Pack said he’s working closely with Robbie Rose, Washington’s fire-rescue-EMS chief, on making sure this weekend’s Smoke on the Water event will be safe. Rose is advising Smoke on the Water officials, Pack said.

“He’s already provided the with some safety guidelines on possible wind gusts and tent installations and that type thing. They’ve prepared plans to take all the tents down immediately following the event and not leave any up overnight and that type thing,” Pack said. “We pay attention to all these things. We pay attention in the county and try to watch for those things.”

Spencer Stanley, one of the Washington Noon Rotarians overseeing Smoke on the Water this weekend, said the event is a go.

“Absolutely. Full steam ahead right now,” Stanley said. “I’ve been in touch, through Robbie Rose, with the emergency-management folks. They don’t expect a whole lot here (today) or even early Saturday morning. They’re forecasting maybe a tenth of an inch of rain off and on Saturday morning. It may pick up Saturday afternoon about 4 o’clock, but we’ll be pretty much wrapped up by then,” Stanley said.

City Manager Josh Kay said the city is expecting winds in the range of 20 mph to 30 mph Saturday and Sunday. Although the city has been trimming trees along its electric lines in recent days in an effort to prevent power outages, high winds will cause some power outages, he said.

“We’re prepared,” he said.

Those preparations include making sure line crews get rest and that equipment is ready to be deployed, Kay said.

Heidi Smith, spokeswoman for Tideland Electric Membership Corp., which provides electricity to some parts of Beaufort County and other areas in eastern North Carolina, said a newly revised emergency action plan is in place. Tideland is staying in touch with emergency-management officials to keep abreast with the latest storm developments, she said.

“We’ve put everybody on notice that we need to be ready. … Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and where they need to be. … We have outside crews ready to come in if need be,” she said.

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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