State of emergency remains

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The state of emergency issued by the county after Friday night’s EF3 tornado will remain indefinitely.

According to Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack, the order gives law enforcement more back up when it comes to enforcing who can be within the areas most damaged by the storm. Until further notice, travel is restricted to residents and public safety personnel within the areas most impacted by the storm: the Town of Chocowinity, Whichards Beach Road, River Road, N.C. Highway 32 from River Road to North Boyd Loop Road, and U.S. 264 East from Asbury Church Road to Hunters Bridge Road.

“That state emergency provides law enforcement a little more punch,” Pack said, adding that it gives additional authority to fire chiefs and law enforcement has the authority to stop those who appear to be loitering in the area.

Violators of the state of emergency are subject to a $100 fine.

There’s a reason for the amped up security measures: the threat of looting.

“That’s why such a large law enforcement presence has been out here, to send a message,” Pack said.

To assist with the large presence, six additional North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers from other districts were requested to serve, and an ALE officer was given authorization replace the deputy on duty at a shelter opened for Beaufort County victims, so that deputy could be freed up for patrol.

“We’ve had a substantial amount of manpower out there, in an effort to deter looting and to better control sightseers,” said Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. “We will continue this for days to come.””

According to Watson, Sheriff’s Office personnel have worked closely with the N.C. State Highway Patrol, and member of the Wildlife Resources Commission, in a concentrated effort to deter would-be thieves.

So far, the sheriff’s office has only received one report of a tornado-related theft: a ground water pump was stolen from a damaged pump house on Asbury Church Road.

“There have been several reports of suspicious activity from homeowners the area,” Watson said, saying that the sheriff’s office encourages people to report any such cases.

Pack said another goal of the state of emergency is to deter unlicensed and/or uninsured contractors, who may be scam artists, from taking advantage of tornado victims. He said he witnessed one such person telling a potential customer it would cost $2,000 to have a tree cut and ground up.

“That’s one of the sides of disasters that I hate,” Pack said. “They’re out there and they’re coming in here, because they saw it on TV.”

That particular contractor, out of Michigan, was asked to produce proof of insurance and license to work in North Carolina. He could produce neither, Pack said.

Pack said the goal is to be proactive and make sure home and business owners know about the scams. One way is for residents to report “sketchy” contractors.

“We’re just trying to protect the people of BC,” Pack said. “People have to call and tell us when something doesn’t sound right.”

Today, state and federal damage assessment teams, escorted by Beaufort County government officials, will do an official damage assessment for the county. This will determine whether the county is eligible for individual assistance from state and federal grants.