2018-09-12 / Featured

Florence bearing down on N.C.

By Johnny Whitfield
Courier-Times Editor

A ‘temporarily out of stock’ sign is displayed in the water aisle at Food Lion on North Madison Boulevard, as the grocery store saw many residents stocking up for Hurricane Florence. ANNA FLETCHER | courier-times A ‘temporarily out of stock’ sign is displayed in the water aisle at Food Lion on North Madison Boulevard, as the grocery store saw many residents stocking up for Hurricane Florence. ANNA FLETCHER | courier-times Person County residents are in full preparation mode as Hurricane Florence approaches the North Carolina coast. As of Tuesday’s 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the storm is expected to make landfall along the southern North Carolina coast about 8 a.m. Friday.

The storm is expected to stall once it makes landfall creating the potential for massive amounts of rain to fall across much of the state, including Person County. Rainfall amounts in Person County are expected between seven and 10 inches. Tropical storm force winds could reach the area by Thursday afternoon or evening.

The storm has local emergency and utility workers making plans and positioning resources to respond to the weather event.

The National Weather Service has rated the chances for flash flooding and river flooding as extreme throughout central North Carolina. Power outages are also widely expected. The chance of tornados spawned by the storm is elevated and the change for wind damage is significant.

Person County Board of Commissioners chairman Tracey Kendrick declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon. Mayor Merilyn Newell did the same for the city on Tuesday. That clears the way for FEMA reimbursements if the area suffers significant damages from Florence.

Person County Manager Heidi York and Emergency Management Director Doug Young have been coordinating meetings with a variety of county and city departments, first responders and other emergency personnel to assess needs and plans for how each department will respond to the storm.

“At this point, we are hearing from the weather service and the State Emergency Management Operations. We went around the room and did a briefing. We were asking what are your needs and plans for the next 48 to 72 hours,” York said.

Decisions are expected today about whether to open storm shelters. If emergency management officials do that, the first shelter to open would be at Clement Baptist Church, at 8480 Burlington Road, Hurdle Mills. If additional shelters are needed, York said the county is prepared to open them at Warren’s Grove Baptist Church and the FEMA Shelter beside the Person County Department of Social Services.

City public safety leaders are part of that planning effort as well. Newell said keeping residents safe is the city’s first concern. “There are a couple ways you accomplish that,” Newell said. “We need to keep essential services operational.

That includes water and wastewater. We need to maintain the safety of our water supply.” She said city workers will also be keeping an eye on flood prone areas around the city.

“We may have the good fortune that the rain is sustained and not in large deluges. That would make it easier to maintain our facilities, but we are fully aware that large amounts of water could overwhelm our facilities,” Newell said.

She also said it’s important in the wake of the storm that people check on each other’s well-being. “Those who live alone, the elderly and infirm need to be checked after in an emergency,” Newell said.

Tanya Evans, the district manager for Duke Energy said the utility company has response plans for the coast and a separate plan for central North Carolina.

Part of that plan involves what she calls “native” workers – those Duke Energy employees who work in different parts of the state. Those workers will be at the center of restoration efforts locally once the storm passes.

But Evans cautions that people should expect to be without power for multiple days or weeks. As long as storm winds are greater than 35 miles an hour, Evans says workers can’t safely work in the bucket trucks that become such a common sight after a storm.

The utility company is staging workers in various parts of the state ahead of the storm and has called on other utility companies from the midwest and Florida to help restore power. To report power outages, call 800-419-6356.

For all other emergency needs, call 911.

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