Preparations for Florence continue

By Bill Colvard -

Local preparations for impact from Hurricane Florence have ranged from county officials discussing disaster preparedness with stakeholders to volunteers passing out emergency kits to homeless persons who will be weathering the storm outdoors.

John Shelton, Surry County emergency services director, met Wednesday with representatives from dozens of agencies to discuss hurricane preparedness as Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas.

The meeting was attended by more than 60 people representing all of the school systems in the county, including city systems, the health department, social services, law enforcement, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, both hospitals, hospice, fire departments, rescue organizations, N.C. Department of Transportation and Emergency Medical Services.

“We are so blessed to have the cooperation of all these people to come out on such short notice,” said Shelton. Notice of the Wednesday meeting went out on Monday, and virtually everyone came, according to Shelton. Meetings are generally held quarterly.

Shelton said virtually all aspects of disaster management were discussed: flooding, detours, road closures, wind damage, downed trees and power outages, possible shelters and at what point they might be opened.

“We have a good plan put together,” said Shelton. “People know what they might expect.”

Four individuals, along with a communications trailer, have been deployed from Surry County to run a staging area in Butner, according to Shelton. They will serve as staging area manager and 911 personnel.

Shelter in the Storm

“We’ve never been faced with anything like this,” said Mary Boyles, executive director of The Shepherd’s House. “This organization came after Hugo. We haven’t had to have a disaster plan. But I think we are more than ready.”

In addition to preparing for the well-being of shelter residents, Shepherd’s House staff, volunteers and board members were preparing on Wednesday to take care packages of water, non-perishable food and blankets out to homeless people in the county who do not seek shelter.

“We know where people have stayed in the past due to our Point in Time Survey (an annual survey of all homeless persons in the county),” said Boyles.

“We are reaching out to the unsheltered,” said Boyles. “It’s more crucial now than ever. Some people have animals so they can’t come into the shelter.”

Boyles added that many people stay near water — in remote areas near creeks and rivers as the water source is convenient — but these are the precise areas that will be most affected by flooding. And since they don’t have TVs and newspaper subscriptions, these folks may not even be aware a severe storm is on the way.

In the event of extended electric outages, Shepherd’s House has made plans to evacuate to Dunmore Plantation in Dobson which has gas cooking appliances and has arranged to have a Cysco truck on site where refrigerated and frozen foods can be maintained at the proper temperatures.

“We will not lose any of the hard-won food that our donors have so generously given us,” said Boyles.

“We have nine children here, and some of them are on formula, so we need plenty of bottled water. We’re reaching out on Facebook for donations.”

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.