Local fire and rescue agencies are in a wait and see mode as Hurricane Sandy rumbles its way across the region.
Surry County Emergency Services coordinator John Shelton said Surry County was one of only a counties in the region with high wind warnings.
“I think this is because we border on Virginia,” theorized Shelton. “We are checking all our back up power for 911 and rescue services. We have also alerted all emergency medical services in the area to get prepared for trees to be downed.”
Shelton said Surry County had already experienced some fallen trees early on Monday.
“One thing in our favor is that we have not had a lot of wet weather lately,” added Shelton. “Trees will stay up better since the ground has not been saturated with water. Basically we are on hold and just standing by seeing what happens.”
He said low temperatures caused by the cold combined with Hurricane Sandy would likely cause some families in the area to use auxiliary heat sources, such as kerosene heaters, for their homes.
“We just want to caution families using these heat sources to be sure their homes are well vented because of the threat of carbon monoxide,” said Shelton. “Those burning wood because of the change in the weather pattern need to be cautious if they have not had their chimneys cleaned. Build up in a chimney could cause a chimney fire.”
Shelton said residents might see an improvement in the weather pattern as early as Wednesday. He said Surry County’s forecast is better that Galax, Va., where the weather report has called for anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of snow. West Virginia, by contrast, has a forecast of 4 to 6 feet of snow due to Sandy.
Surry County 911 Communications Center Director Jonathan Bledsoe said all staff and employees for the center are on standby and the county emergency operations center has been opened up, which sets up a chain of constant communication relaying weather and incident information to Raleigh.
He said fire and rescue crews were reminded to check chain saws and that fuel levels in vehicles are adequate. He said that more than 10 weather-related incidents occurred as of late Monday afternoon including two downed trees and several downed power lines.
“It is not as bad as I thought…yet,” said Bledsoe. He echoed Shelton’s concerns over auxiliary heaters and carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires.
Carroll County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Monk is adopting the same be ready and wait stance as Bledsoe and Shelton.
“In situations like this, we all coordinate our efforts with the Virginia Department of Emergency Services,” said Monk. He said the county’s operation plan also will contain direction about areas where additional help may need to be mobilized.
“After getting all our efforts coordinated we then just watch to see what happens,” said Monk. He added that Carroll was also under a high wind warning with 35 to 40 mile per hour sustained winds and 60 mile per hour gusts expected today.
“We have had a little more rain than Surry County but the ground was not too wet,” added Monk. “I still expect we’ll have some trees down due to the storm. I would just like to encourage people to be prepared and have staples such as batteries, water and food on hand to last for a while.”
According to meteorologist Nick Fillo of the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., the area would see the most significant weather events after the category one hurricane made landfall at midnight last night over the New Jersey shore. He also said to expect really gusty winds up until midnight tonight. Sustained winds of 25 miles and hour with 50-mile an hour gusts were anticipated Monday.
Fillo said Mount Airy is expected to receive rain mixed with snow and strong winds from the northwest and today the wind should decrease as the storm weakens when it turns north. The wind is expected to be at least 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 35 today and through tonight.
He added that clouds are expected to break up on Wednesday with a temperature of 49 degrees. He said he felt the weather for the second half of the week would be closer to normal. Even though Sandy is considered a tropical, category one storm, its size has enabled the storm to draw in cold air from fronts in the Northwest due in part to its counter-clockwise rotation.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.