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North Carolina readies for Florence as storm strengthens


News, wire reports

Monday, September 10, 2018

With the latest forecast showing Florence likely to grow in strength and threaten the East Coast, Gov. Roy Cooper urged all North Carolina residents, businesses and visitors to prepare for the storm.

Florence turned into a hurricane on Sunday morning and was swirling toward the United States. The National Hurricane Center said it istoo early to predict the storm’s exact path but that a huge coastal area from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic region should prepare for a major strike late in the week.

"Everyone in North Carolina needs to keep a close eye on Florence and take steps now to get ready for impacts later this week," Cooper said. "State emergency management, transportation, health experts and others are making sure North Carolina is prepared for the storm, and I urge the public to review your emergency plans and gather your supplies now."

Florence is already being felt along the North Carolina coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf. Beachgoers are urged to heed warnings from local officials and lifeguards. The potential for heavy inland rains and flooding means the entire state must be on alert, Cooper said.

Morgan Simms, National Weather Service meteorologist, said this is a prime time of year for hurricane activity. 

“September is the peak for hurricane activity,” Simm said. “So, it's not unusual to see this activity. Currently, the tropics are very active.

“The current track is to have landfall somewhere in between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear,” Simms said. “However, what we're trying to determine right now are the impacts on where the highest rainfall, wind and storm surge is. Chances of a landfall in eastern North Carolina have been increasing.”

Simms added, “Currently, the hurricane is about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda and there's quite a bit of uncertainty where this storm will go. Make sure you have a hurricane plan in place. Preparedness is key right now. Going out to get supplies is important.” 

Throughout the weekend, state officials were readying for potential effects from a major hurricane:

North Carolina remains under a State of Emergency, declared on Friday. The governor temporarily waived certain restrictions for trucks and heavy vehicles to help farmers harvest and move crops and livestock ahead of the storm and help utilities and other equipment be ready to respond if needed.

North Carolina Emergency Management experts are working today to determine where to place resources ahead of the storm. The State Emergency Operations Center plans to activate today at 1 p.m. and emergency management is coordinating with the counties, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and key partners in the State Emergency Response Team which includes all state agencies plus utility representatives, private sector partners and volunteer agencies active during disasters.

State Department of Transportation employees are readying hurricane response equipment, such as bulldozers, motor graders and chainsaws, to ensure it is in good working order and topping off fuel sites. Employees also are contacting local contractors and equipment providers to make sure resources are available to assist if needed.

NC Department of Health and Human Services experts are reaching out to all 100 county Social Services offices to make sure they have reviewed their emergency preparedness plans, developed staffing schedules, and pulled together supplies in the event shelters are needed.

DHHS also is working with American Red Cross, NC Baptists on Mission and other groups to make sure sheltering and feeding needs can be met, and public health experts will be reaching out to at-risk North Carolinians with critical health challenges to help them prepare for the storm.

North Carolina's state parks, historic sites, museums and aquariums are monitoring Florence's potential track and performing necessary storm preparations, including securing the grounds, confirming generators are operable, fueling vehicles, and ensuring sufficient supplies are on hand to care for aquarium animals. State parks rangers and staff are on standby to lend support where needed for storm response.

“We are getting updates from the National Hurricane Center and FEMA as well as our other partners and drawing on everyone’s experience to plan and prepare to respond to any need,” state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. “We ask the public to stay tuned to your local forecast and listen to your local emergency officials. Make sure you have a plan for yourself and your family members, to include your pets.”