While much of the attention on Hurricane Florence has been centered around its potentially devastating effects on the coast, officials are warning area residents it could have significant impact in Surry County.
With predicted heavy rain and strong wind later in the week, those officials are saying local residents should stock up on enough supplies to wait out power outages that could last several days. They’re also running checks to make sure EMS is ready with whatever equipment and personnel is needed.
“If we get the amount of rainfall they are telling us we’re getting, the rivers we deal with most — Yadkin, Mitchell, Ararat and Lovills Creek — are our concern,” said John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services. “Most people know those streams that cover the roadways, so they should be cautious in heavy rain and do not cross water in heavy rain. It doesn’t take much to wash a car away,” Shelton said.
He said Surry officials are coordinating with area fire and rescue agencies as well as North Carolina Department of Transportation crews so they can quickly get detours noted as needed and work to clear trees and other debris.
Shelton urged caution in curves and at night when debris and fallen trees are harder to see, and he said if people are having to travel in the weather, they should alert others as to where they are going, their route and when they should be expected to arrive in case they get stranded or there is an emergency.
County emergency officials also are reviewing their special needs registry for people who may need generators for medical purposes if the storm knocks out power. Shelton said if people are aware of others in the community who might need welfare checks during the storm to call the Surry Communications Center’s non-emergency line at 336-374-3000.
He said his agency has been in touch with hospitals and nursing homes as well, and Monday has been spent testing generators and maintenance chainsaws. “We’re making sure we’ve got people available for swift water rescues and things like that in conjunction with area rescue squads,” Shelton said.
Yadkin County Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal, along with Shelton, have been coordinating with state officials on the storm response.
“If it stays on the same track, it’s coming right for us in Yadkin County,” Vestal said. “The biggest thing is for people to take preparation now.”
The recommendation is for people to be prepared with enough supplies for at least three days. Batteries, drinking water and stored water to use for flushing toilets as well as nonperishable food and food for pets are a few things he suggested folks to stock up on.
Indoor furniture should be secured in a location where it won’t blow away or possibly blow into windows and break them. Vestal added pets should be secured as well so that thunder and lightening wouldn’t frighten them and cause them to run away.
“Another reminder is don’t use charcoal grills, camps stoves or any of those types of things to prepare meals indoors,” Vestal said. “You need to go somewhere it’s well ventilated to use those types of cooking devices, because they’re not meant to be inside, and please don’t use generators inside because we don’t want anybody to have carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Local authorities weren’t the only ones preparing for the storm Monday.
State officials are urging residents across North Carolina to heed the warnings, as Florence has reached Category 4 strength, and is expected to remain that strong until slamming into the coast Thursday.
“Our best defense is good preparation,” said Governor Roy Cooper during a press conference Monday morning. “The storm is strong and getting stronger.”
He encouraged citizens to use the time between now and Thursday to prepare and use common sense in staying safe.
With weather forecasters calling the storm “life threatening,” Cooper said officials are watching three main issues — storm surge along the coastline, strong winds which could be heavier than any the state has experienced in recent years, and inland flooding and heavy rains.
“We are bracing for a hard hit,” he said. “North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should too. Get ready now.”
Evacuations in Dare County began Monday and are expected to continue, and officials at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington have canceled classes and activities for the remainder of the week to allow students and staff to evacuate if they so choose.
Other counties along North Carolina’s coast are also issuing evacuation warnings, while South Carolina has ordered the evacuation of all coastal areas beginning at noon on Tuesday. Late Monday afternoon, Maryland’s governor declared a state of emergency, joining the governors in both North and South Carolina and Virginia in similar declarations.
Mike Sprayberry, director of N.C. Emergency Management, said residents with the capability should download the Ready NC app on their phones, which will provide checklists for preparedness kits and other emergency updates as they are made.
Surry County’s John Shelton also said the Surry County Public Safety Portal, which can be found at http://psp.surryco.info/, has links to shelter status, road status, power outages, emergency kit checklists and live radar to monitor weather.