Officials: ‘We’re as prepared as we can be.’

Last updated: February 11. 2014 12:49PM - 2199 Views
By Keith Strange kstrange@civitasmedia.com

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With yet another winter storm targeting Surry County, it would be easy to consider this winter the Winter of our Discontent.

County law enforcement and emergency management officials were huddling Tuesday morning, bracing for what forecasters say could be a “top five” winter storm in the region, as forecasters issued a winter weather warning for the region.

Representatives from agencies as varied as the North Carolina Forest Service, the American Red Cross, area law enforcement and the North Carolina Department of Transportation met Tuesday to work on a plan on the eve of the storm.

“We’re taking it very seriously,” said Sheriff Graham Atkinson.

Emergency Services Director John Shelton said he felt the county is prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“I think we’re in as good a shape as we can be at this point,” he said. “We have a good plan in place on how to handle things depending on what happens.”

That plan includes members of the North Carolina National Guard patrolling the county’s interstates in Humvees to assist any motorists experiencing problems.

As much as 10 inches of snow is being forecast over the next 48 hours for the area, with the precipitation expected to begin Wednesday morning, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“What we’re thinking about right now in terms of timing for starting looks like around 10 a.m.,” said James Clark, meteorologist at the National Weather Service center in Blacksburg, Va., which handles forecasting for this region.

Clark said southern portions of the county may see winter precipitation even earlier.

The winter precipitation should taper off Thursday afternoon, but the meteorologist said from the start of the winter storm until the end, the area will see “fairly steady persistent heavy snowfall.”

According to the meteorologist, the storm could result in “significant” accumulations.

“It looks like it will be a significant event with eight to 10 inches for Wilkes and western Surry, and Yadkin and eastern Surry could see in the 10 to 12 inch range,” he said.

If the projected accumulations become reality, it could be one for the record books.

Clark said the last snowfall of 5 or more inches was Jan. 30, 2010, when Mount Airy saw 5 inches and Elkin received 7.4 inches at the official weather stations at each municipality’s water treatment plants. Elkin also saw 8 inches on Dec. 19, 2009, the same day Mount Airy recorded 7.5 inches.

But for extremes in Elkin, Clark reported snowfalls that came in at 12 inches on Feb. 19, 1979, which is tied with 12 inches on Feb. 13, 1960.

“If this exceeds 10 inches, it will be a top five event for sure,” Clark said.

Atkinson said his office is checking emergency power supplies to run essential services.

“We’re also pulling together all the four-wheel drives we can find to ensure that we have patrol operations covered,” he said. “During the storm we’re going to be running two officers per vehicle in case something happens, and we have a plan in place to staff any shelters, should they have to open.”

County residents are encouraged to take the necessary precautions to prepare for the impending winter blast.

The American Red Cross recommends making an emergency preparedness kit that includes water, nonperishable food, flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, extra batteries, medicines and a first aid kit.

It was a sentiment echoed by Shelton.

“The one thing we have to stress is that if you don’t have to be out, you need to stay in,” he said. “If you’re traveling, you need to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re planning to be back. Make sure you have a phone in the vehicle, blankets, snacks and water. There is a possibility if it gets bad you could leave the roadway.”

Residents should also charge cell phones and other communications devices in the event power fails.

According to Shelton, the Department of Transportation was out en force Tuesday and would remain in place throughout the storm, putting down chemicals on the roadways in preparation for the winter blast.

Atkinson said that while the county “is as prepared as we can be with the resources we have locally,” there is always the possibility of the unexpected.

“We have a good plan in place covering every contingency we can think of, and if something gets thrown at us that we aren’t expecting, we’ll audible,” he said.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.

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