'Prepare now': Cooper declares state of emergency


Morris Burnham said he was preparing for Hurricane Irma's potential arrival in North Carolina early next week by stocking up on bottled water at Lowe's in Elizabeth City, Wednesday.


From staff reports

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Even though Hurricane Irma’s path and impacts are still uncertain, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for all 100 North Carolina counties Wednesday evening.

The emergency declaration, which takes effect Thursday at 8 a.m., is needed to help state emergency response officials put in place resources that may be needed in response to the storm, which as of Wednesday evening was lashing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane.

“There is a lot we still don’t know about this storm, but we do know that North Carolina can expect to feel some sort of effects as soon as early next week, and now is the time to get prepared,“ Cooper said in a statement. ”Wherever you live in North Carolina — from the mountains to the piedmont to the coast — you need to take this storm seriously, and you need to start preparing for some type of impact.”

Preparation was also the mantra of local emergency management officials. While a lot of uncertainty still exists about Hurricane Irma’s storm track, meteorologists are predicting that portions of the state could experience wind and rain from the tropical system as early as Monday.

Christy Saunders, director of Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Management, said residents need to begin now preparing for the possibility of hazards from Hurricane Irma.

“Most importantly – prepare now,” Saunders said. “One of the things people tend to do is wait until the last minute to make a decision.”

Saunders also emphasized that it's important to understand that storm effects can extend much farther than what may appear on storm track graphics.

“Don’t just concentrate on the black dots on the forecast track of the hurricane when making a decision to evacuate — this just a graphic showing the timing for the eye of the storm,” Saunders said. “Storm bands and storm surge may start many hours before the eye approaches, depending on the size of the hurricane.

“Many people have thought they weren’t going to be affected because the eye didn’t come directly over them,” she said.

As area residents begin learning of the possibility of significant impacts from Irma, many are stocking up on supplies in anticipation of severe weather.

Garry Stilley, manager at Walmart in Elizabeth City, said customers were buying large quantities of bottled water, bread and other supplies in anticipation of severe weather. He said the store had been able to keep all the items in stock by over-ordering in expectation of a possible hurricane’s arrival.

Morris Burnham was not taking anything for granted on Wednesday. The Newland resident was at the Lowe’s store in Elizabeth City stocking up on bottled water and batteries.

Burnham said he had heard a report earlier in the day indicating Irma might hit Fayetteville, which he said would also have significant effects for this area.

He said he hoped the Newland Dike would not breach as it had during some previous storms, including Hurricane Matthew last year. He said he hoped the Newland Dike would not breach as it had during some previous storms, including Hurricane Matthew last year.

Saunders stressed not driving through flood waters.

To keep track of the latest news on Irma, Pasquotank and Camden residents are encouraged to sign up for Code Red at https://public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/BFB7CC4C6C0A.

Saunders also said the Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Management Facebook page is updated with local information. She noted that information on television or radio may be more focused on Virginia and the Outer Banks while the Emergency Manage Facebook page will have local information.

Jonathan Nixon, director of Perquimans County Emergency Services, encouraged residents of his county to register with Code Red, the county's free emergency notification service. Perquimans residents may enroll at http://www.co.perquimans.nc.us/ by scrolling to the bottom and click the CodeRED logo to sign up for the free notifications.

"Locally we are beginning storm preparations by fueling generators, reaching out to our response partners and reviewing plans," Nixon said in an email notice Wednesday.

Susanne Stallings, executive assistant to Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard, and clerk to the board of county commissioners, said Chowan officials are carefully monitoring information on Hurricane Irma from the National Weather Service and North Carolina Emergency Management.

"As the forecasted path of Hurricane Irma becomes more defined, decisions will be made regarding the need to open shelters and activation of our local Emergency Operations Center," Stallings said in a statement.

"Chowan County is reminding local residents about the importance of being prepared for the Atlantic hurricane season," she added. "Now is the time for residents to develop a family disaster plan.”

Stallings noted that preparedness information is posted on the following state and local websites: www.readync.org, www.chowancounty-nc.gov; and www.townofedenton.com.

Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton said her office is also closely monitoring information coming out of the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va. and the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

"We're taking this situation very seriously," she said, "and doing everything we can to get ready. We're definitely in storm preparedness mode."