Sunday, March 26, 2023

Cooper, state officials talk preparations in face of Ian’s ‘dangerous unpredictability’

(Port City Daily/File)

Be prepared: That was the message Gov. Roy Cooper pressed upon North Carolinians at a Thursday press conference regarding the effects of Ian, which will reach the Tar Heel State by Friday.

“Today is the day to get ready,” Cooper said. “In recent hours, Ian has reminded us of the dangerous unpredictability of these storms as its track continues to change.”

READ MORE: Closures and cancelations: Ian shifts area schedules

Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4, slowed to a tropical storm and is expected to power up slightly as it reaches the Atlantic. It will make landfall near Charleston, South Carolina, as a Category 1, Friday.

Its remnants will be felt along the Carolina coast, with high-end tropical storm (39 to 57 miles per hour) to low-end hurricane-force winds topping out at 74 miles per hour. Heavy rainfall is expected, in some areas up to 7 inches, affecting the mountainous and coastal regions.

“Remember, it was only 13 months ago that Tropical Storm Fred brought destruction and death to our mountains of western North Carolina. That storm killed six people and damaged 125 homes along with more than 200 roads and bridges,” Cooper said.

Isolated power outages can be expected. The governor and state emergency personnel reminded the public about the importance of stocking hurricane preparedness kits with battery-operated flashlights and radios, charged smartphones and computers, water, medicine and food supplies, as well as safeguarding important documents.

With the threat of flooding, they also advised motorists to avoid waterlogged roads.

“If you can’t see the pavement beneath the water, there is likely a problem,” the governor said.

Cooper signed a state of emergency declaration Wednesday to protect consumers from price-gouging, while also allowing for less regulations in the transportation sector to help with needed supplies and resources, and has activated 80 members of the National Guard.

“Some of these men and women will be equipped with high-clearance vehicles to move people and resources safely in flooded areas,” he said.

There are 350 personnel maintaining the state emergency operations department currently across three areas: central, western and eastern sections of the state. They work in tandem with federal partners, and representatives from voluntary, nonprofit and private sector agencies to deploy resources efficiently. Expanded first responders, search and rescue, and swiftwater rescue teams have been activated to help out in places that may experience excessive flooding. 

Emergency crews have been pre-positioned across the state, many centrally located. Officials said it gives them access to either the western or eastern areas equally and to identify what jurisdictions need, should issues arise.

“For those that live in our coastal counties where coastal flooding will be a threat, make sure you know your zone if you live in a predetermined evacuation zone,” North Carolina Emergency Management Director William Ray said. 

Pender County has issued a state of emergency to go into effect 8 a.m. Friday. New Hanover and Brunswick counties are actively monitoring the storm but have not made any announcements as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

The latest National Weather Service forecast upgraded tropical storm watches to warnings for affected inland areas, especially in South Carolina. It also changed the tropical warning in South Carolina to a hurricane warning, up to Brunswick County. The greater Wilmington area is under a hurricane watch. 

Rainfall will impact the Northeast Cape Fear River near Burgaw, according to the NWS. Flooding may affect the River Bend and River Birch areas, and it noted advisories may be issued later.

“Given the potential variability in the rainfall distribution resulting from Ian, people along all rivers in southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina are encouraged to take action now to prepare for minor river flooding,” NWS’s Thursday update noted.

According to North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Eric Boyle, 2,200 employees statewide are preparing necessary equipment, including 1500 chainsaws, 11,000 barricades and emergency signs, 1,400 trucks for debris removal, 400 backhoes and loaders, and more than 200 motor graders. He also said they’re primed to repair roadways and bridges as need be.

“Due to the anticipated use of high winds, our ports authority will pause vessel operations Friday in Wilmington and Morehead City,” Boyle said. “At this time, all state-run passenger trains [will continue to] operate.”

As far as emergency shelters, none in the state have opened yet; however, Boyle said those plans can “shift and evolve” quickly, depending on how the storm’s path proceeds.

Earlier in the week, weather officials expected Ian to arrive Saturday with the most impact; now, it’s bumped up to Friday when storm-force winds and rain arrive in the early morning hours, with the strongest conditions to be apparent in the Cape Fear from late morning through Friday evening.

Emergency numbers in the greater Wilmington area:

  • Duke Energy/Report Power Outages:
    800.419.6356 or report outages by texting OUT to 57801
  • CFPUA Water / Sewer Emergencies:
  • Report Downed Trees:
  • Report Flooding or Stormwater Issues: 
  • UNCW Emergency Info:
    (888) 657.5751
  • CFCC Emergency Info:
  • Emergencies:
  • Non-emergency 911:

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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