Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Pender County urges residents to prepare for Florence coastal surges and inland flooding

Preparation for the impending hurricane is key. Pender County as well surrounding counties have already enacted evacuation plans and declared a state of emergency.

The entire Cape Fear region is at risk of wind from Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/Courtesy National Hurricane Center)
The entire Cape Fear region is at risk of wind from Hurricane Florence (Port City Daily/Courtesy National Hurricane Center)

Update 5:30 p.m.: Pender County authorities declared a state of emergency effective Monday at 3 p.m. and Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin, in an email to Chief of Police Ron Shanahan, said that beginning immediately the Town of Surf City will be under a voluntary evacuation. He also said that if you are an island property owner and need a hurricane key card, you will need to obtain these prior to noonTuesday, as Town Hall will be closing at this time.

BURGAW — After emergency planning meetings in response to the approaching Hurricane Florence — which the National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and expects it to approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday — Pender County Tourism Director Tammy Proctor has urged the county’s residents to prepare for storm surges on the coast and flooding inland.

Evacuation plans for Surf City and Topsail Beach

Surf City may begin an evacuation Tuesday, according to Proctor, and Topsail Beach issued a voluntary evacuation going on now and may begin a mandatory evacuation Wednesday morning.

“Topsail Beach has declared a State of Emergency as of 9:00 this morning, September 10, and a voluntary evacuation for the Town will be in effect starting at noon today,” Topsail Beach Mayor Howard Braxton wrote on the town’s website.

“We are currently under a voluntary evacuation right now, but the Board did go ahead and declare a mandatory evacuation starting Wednesday at 8 a.m,” Topsail Beach Town Manager Michael Rose said Monday afternoon. “That is the best case scenario. If we hear something different between now and tomorrow it’s possible that (time) could be moved up.”

Rose also said a curfew was declared for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“That’s certainly the hope to have most if not all of the mandatory evacuation done throughout (Wednesday),” Rose said.

Mayor Braxton also advised residents to secure outdoor items such as trash cans and lawn furniture, pick up packages and mail at the Post Office, and stay tuned to weather forecasts and updates on the Town’s website and Facebook page.

Although Town of Surf City officials could not be reached Monday in time for publication, Rose said to expect similar evacuation plans.

“We expect to hear from them soon, because Surf City is a great resource for Topsail Beach in terms of coordinating these efforts,” Rose said.

On Monday afternoon, the Town of Surf City’s Facebook page urged residents to tie down or bring in all loose items and contractors to remove all portable toilets and secure all construction materials.

The city also said that all Topsail Island property owners can use a keycard pass or photo id and a current utility bill to gain island access in the event of an evacuation; all existing key cards are still valid, and residents have until

Pender County residents who require hospital and assisted living facilities and whose medical needs require special sheltering accommodation need to call the Pender County Health Department at 910-259-1499 and sign up for the special needs registry.

“The registry provides county staff with contact information for special needs individuals before an emergency to ensure they have a safe place to go and a way to get there,” said Carolyn Moser, director of Pender County Health & Human Services, in a release Monday morning. “Being listed in the registry doesn’t mean you have to go to a shelter, but it does make us aware of your possible need for safe sheltering.”

Most vulnerable areas, roads to avoid

Depending on continued tracking by the National Hurricane Center, if Hurricane Florence makes landfall in Pender County the most vulnerable areas will be the county’s barrier islands — including Topsail Island — and immediate coastal properties, according to Proctor.

However, it could be like a Floyd, (where) we have a storm that would stall or if we’d be on the back side of the storm, causing rain and flooding,” Proctor said. 

When Hurricane Matthew hit Pender County in 2016, the Black River area was hit particularly hard with flooding, and the county has its eyes on that area as well as Highway 53 near the Cape Fear River, according to Proctor. Matthew, the first Category 5 hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007, caused widespread devastation in the southeastern U.S.

A Burgaw town meeting has been canceled tomorrow, and in Surf City and Topsail Island all eyes are on potential flooding.

Surf City council member Jeremy Shugarts said in an email Monday morning that the island is planning for tropical force storms to “be upon us by Wednesday morning,” and regardless of specific landfall will experience high winds, excessive rain and possible flooding.

Our city is in great hands. The Council, Mayor, Department Heads, Town Manager and County officials met over the phone to discuss the situation,” Shugarts said. 

“On the island, any time it rains hard, there are flooding issues in Surf City,” Proctor said, “which make it difficult for people in Topsail to get out.”

Flooding issues occur on the Topsail Island’s main road, Highway 210, with large rainstorms, let alone hurricanes, Proctor said.

Prepare, not panic

“We don’t want people to panic, we want them to prepare,” Proctor said. “As you can imagine there’s a lot of panic out there among some folks because they’ve never been through a hurricane before.”

Pender County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, and many residents have never incurred a storm, Proctor said.

“We need them to remain calm,” Proctor said. “(People from) New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania — we have a lot of folks who are used to dealing with snow, but they have never been in a hurricane.”

The county will be posting events such as flooding as they occur on their Facebook page.

Pender County Shelters open 8 a.m. Wednesday, unless otherwise noted; they are:

  • Topsail Elementary
  • Burgaw Middle School – pet friendly (opening Tuesday at 4 p.m.)
  • Cape Fear Middle School
  • Malpass Corner Elementary

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