Moore Expects Little From Irene
With the latest projections calling for Hurricane Irene to skirt the North Carolina coast, Moore County is preparing for the worst - just in case.
County Emergency Manager Scot Brooks said Thursday that emergency personnel are "poised and ready" for flooding, downed trees and power lines, significant power outages or anything else that could hit the area depending on Irene's path.
"Right now, we are monitoring the situation and continuing to get information," he said.
That data, he said, is indicating with a fair amount of certainty that the greater impact of the storm will be in the eastern part of North Carolina and up the coast.
"It looks like we will get some wind and rain similar to a normal thunderstorm," Brooks said.
Moore County is currently under a hazardous weather advisory due to Irene. Rain is expected to begin this afternoon and be possible through Saturday. Winds Saturday are expected to be between 15 and 21 mph, with gusts up to 32 mph.
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Raleigh on Thursday said the storm will have little impact on Moore County.
"The bottom line for Moore County is there isn't a whole lot to worry about," said Gail Hartsfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
Hartsfield said Moore County could get some brief heavy rain at times, with accumulations about a quarter of an inch.
She also said the area likely will see windy conditions Friday afternoon through Saturday, with gusts of 25 mph or greater.
Hartsfield advised against travel to the East and North over the next few days.
Mandatory evacuation orders are under way for several coastal counties in North Carolina.
Gov. Bev Perdue late Wednesday declared a state of emergency for counties east of Interstate 95 in North Carolina. The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch Thursday for the North Carolina coast, from Surf City to the Virginia border. A tropical storm watch is in effect from Surf City to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.
Irene is expected to churn up the East Coast after turning north early Friday.
Perdue called Hurricane Irene a "significant threat" to North Carolina. She has asked President Obama to issue a pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide federal assistance for response efforts.
The governor's proclamation authorizes officials to respond more effectively to the emergency by authorizing additional state government resources to assist county and municipal governments. Under the proclamation, the governor has expanded powers to address all aspects of the emergency, including the authority to use state resources needed to respond to the situation
On Wednesday, the Aberdeen Town Board held a special emergency meeting to sign an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) that would give town work crews authority to remove debris from secondary streets in the event the state or federal government eclares the area a natural disaster following a hurricane, snowstorm or other natural act.
The town would be able to seek reimbursement of funds used to clean up by applying with the Federal Emergency Management Association and the state.
"We've pushed this item because Hurricane Irene, even though its path is trending off the coast and away from us, is still out there," Planning Director Kathy Liles said.
Aberdeen is the first municipality in Moore County to sign the agreement, she said.
Liles told the board that without the agreement, the town's public works department lacks permission to remove even one piece of debris from state-maintained streets and receive reimbursement for that work.
"Our reality," Liles said, "is that we may need access down these secondary roads to get to our buildings, and to get to our residents."
The agreement still leaves main roads like U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501 under the responsibility of NCDOT officials for clearing debris in a disaster.
She said that in times of disaster, the town would be able to move faster to clear debris because NCDOT would focus on major roads and possibly even other areas first.
"We are trying to get us in a better place so we are not backed against a wall," she said. "By taking these steps, we are putting the town in the best position if there is an event."
The town would only be able to apply for reimbursement if the area affected is deemed a disaster by either state or federal authorities. If that happens, the town is eligible to recover 75 percent of its incurred costs from FEMA and another 25 percent from the state.
State compensation is not guaranteed, Liles said.
Liles said the process to get repayment is complicated, and the amount of paperwork is "unbelieveable."
"The money is there, but you have to do it right," she said.
While Moore County doesn't seem likely to incur much damage from Irene, local aid agencies are gearing up to be ready to help others impacted by the storm.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which serves a 34-county area, is poised to act as a first responder during times of a natural disaster, reacting immediately to serve victims of tornadoes, hurricanes and floods throughout central and eastern North Carolina.
"We are preparing to provide assistance and basic supplies such as food, water, hygiene and paper products to those who might be affected by Hurricane Irene," said Peter Werbicki, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. "We have already been in communication with North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and other disaster response teams."
In the event Hurricane Irene does not affect the Food Bank's service area, the organization will be prepared to assist other food banks in the state. One of the Food Bank's six warehouses is located in Southern Pines.
The Moore County Chapter of the American Red Cross is prepared to open three local shelters for hurricane evacuees from the coastal areas.
"We are ready if needed," said Buddy Spong, executive director of the Moore County Chapter. "But I don't think that will be necessary."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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