North Carolina officials, and those in the Yadkin Valley region, are urging residents to prepare early for the effects of Hurricane Florence. The hurricane system already at a Category 3 and is expected to reach Category 4 force by the time it makes landfall on the Carolina 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.
Preparing is what many have been doing as residents have been reporting and posting on social media sites pictures of empty shelves where water, milk and bread once were located in area stores. Others are posting pictures of fully-stocked shelves so people know where to go to get supplies.
Explore Elkin had two events planned for this weekend, the monthly Food Truck Friday and the rescheduled second annual Family Flotilla on the Yadkin River Saturday. Organizers made the call late Tuesday afternoon to cancel those events. The flotilla will be held in 2019 during NC Trail Days festival.
The Yadkin Arts Council already has rescheduled the Yadkin Valley Harvest Festival in Yadkinville for Sept. 29, when it originally was scheduled for Saturday.
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. Since Monday, other inland universities also have canceled classes, and Tuesday mandatory evacuations of many coastal communities were put in place.
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.
This storm isn’t only expected to affect the coastal region. Cooper said forecasters have called this a “statewide event,” which will mean the state will be relying on surrounding states for support similar to the support North Carolina has provided in other emergencies out of state.
John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, 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.
“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. 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.
Caution in curves and at night when debris and fallen trees are harder to see was urged by Shelton as well, 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 needs if power is lost. Shelton said if people are aware of others in the community who might need to be checked on during the storm to call the Surry Communications Center’s non-emergency line at 336-374-3000.
He said they’ve been in touch with hospitals and nursing homes as well, and Monday has been spent testing generators and maintenancing 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 said, “If it stays on the same track, it’s coming right for us in Yadkin County.
“We’re looking at three to four inches-plus of rain with tropical storm force winds,” Vestal said.
Vestal echoed the governor’s warning about early preparation.
“The biggest thing is for people to take preparation now,” he said.
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.”
State officials said during the conference that electric cooperatives and Duke Energy are monitoring the hurricane’s strength and track and that as the storm passes and it is safe, their crews will “surge into the area and get power restored as quickly as possible,” said Sprayberry.
The state’s Emergency Operations Center has been placed on 24-hour activation until after the storm passes, and Sprayberry said thousands of emergency responders, volunteers, public health staff, law enforcement and other responders, such as the 200 activated National Guardsmen with others on standby, are preparing for the storm’s impact.
Cooper already has declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, and Vestal said a document is prepared and waiting for a signature from Yadkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Austin to sign to declare a state of emergency for Yadkin County. Having the document signed will allow the area to receive additional resources from the state and federal government should it be needed.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor. Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.