Heavy preparation for response, power outages biggest impact from Dorian

Published 9:41 pm Friday, September 6, 2019

From the standpoint of emergency response, Beaufort County was spared the brunt of Hurricane Dorian’s wrath, with the biggest problems being downed trees and power lines.

But that doesn’t mean local agencies and officials weren’t prepared. On the contrary, in the days and hours leading up to Dorian’s pass through Beaufort County, a coordinated effort led by Beaufort County Emergency Services sought to ensure the safety of every resident of the county.

“We had a very coordinated effort within all levels of our county,” Beaufort County Emergency Services Director Carnie Hedgepeth said on Friday afternoon. “That’s with other local governments, our volunteer fire and EMS departments and law enforcement. Pre-planning is key. We were able to utilize our emergency operations plan and have those partnerships all come together.”

As of Friday afternoon, utilities crews had begun the process of restoring service to more than 13,000 Beaufort County customers who were left without power during the height of the storm. Throughout the afternoon Friday, crews from each of the county’s three major power companies set to work to reconnect those who had lost service.

According to Hedgepeth, no water rescues had to take place during the storm, but first responders were prepared for that possibility. Two water rescue teams, one from Franklin County and another from Vermont, were in position throughout the county. Flooding on the Pamlico and Pungo rivers proved to be minimal, however, with previously forecasted storm surge predictions not coming to fruition.

“We did have to do a few evacuations for medical needs due to lack of power, but those were very simple, just moving them to a location with power,” Hedgepeth said.

In addition to the water rescue teams, an additional staff member was brought in to help at the emergency operation center, and five high-clearance military vehicles were deployed to the county to prepare for potential rescues. As of Friday afternoon, those resources had been demobilized.

“It’s very important to have those type resources up front in the case that they were needed,” Hedgepeth said. “We’re glad that they were not.”

Locally, as daylight broke Friday, Hedgepeth says local fire departments were a great asset in helping keep the roads open in their districts. Initial damage assessments were underway as of Friday afternoon, with first responders checking for damage throughout the county. On Saturday, assessment teams from Beaufort County Emergency Services are expected to fan out into local communities to take a more detailed look. Residents can also report their own damages online at report-nc-beaufort.orioncentral.com.

“That helps us tremendously,” said Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood. “It’s like five screens, and it’s really easy to do. What that lets us do is gather that information as broadly as we can, and then we push it up to FEMA to determine if there are additional recovery resources that can come down because of those damages.”

Friday afternoon, an emergency shelter at Washington High School was down from 150 residents overnight to 40, and the plan was to keep it open for Friday evening. If evacuees still need a place to stay on Saturday, Hedgepeth says a smaller shelter could be established at another location. Anyone with a storm-related need can call Beaufort County’s disaster relief hotline at 252-940-6517.

While there was one tornado warning issued for northeast Beaufort County just before 8 p.m. Thursday evening, there were no injuries or damages specifically associated with that event.

“We did not get any reports of actual sightings or damage,” Hedgepeth said.