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Florence threatens region

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

When Hurricane Florence slams into the Twin Counties later this week, everyone should be prepared to be on their own for at least three days, local emergency officials said Tuesday.

"Hurricane Florence is a life-threatening storm," said Brent Fisher, assistant director of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management for Nash County Emergency Services.

Fisher said Nash and Edgecombe counties should expect heavy rain and significant winds that will cause major power outages.

When Florence moves into the area, residents will experience heavy winds, flash flooding and river flooding, major power outages and 10-15 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

Mayor David Combs is imposing a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday in Rocky Mount.

Curfew hours will be effective from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Saturday.

Everyone in the city is expected to observe the curfew by “remaining in their homes, offices or places of business during the curfew hours designated by the mayor or until such earlier time as the curfew hereby imposed shall be terminated,” according to the State of Emergency declaration and curfew proclamation signed by Combs.

Only doctors, nurses engaged in rendering assistance to the sick or injured, police officers, firefighters and other authorized agents and employees of the city, county or state are exempt from the curfew.

Impacts from Florence will likely include damage to trees and power lines, resulting in numerous power outages and damage to weak or poorly built structures. Tornadoes are also possible, according to local emergency management officials.

Edgecombe-Martin County EMC employees have met to discuss Hurricane Florence. Energy officials are asking residents to secure their homes and check on neighbors, especially the elderly or disabled.

Utility workers cannot guarantee a time-frame of power restoration after Florence passes through the area. Everyone should be prepared for extended outages.

Rocky Mount began lowering its reservoir gates Tuesday morning.

Anticipating excessive rainfall, the gates of the Tar River Reservoir Water Supply Dam will be gradually lowered to reduce water levels in the reservoir and hopefully minimize the potential impact of significantly increased flows along the Tar River on the hydraulic gates once the storm hits and rains associated with the hurricane reach the reservoir, said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's chief communications and marketing officer.

"While lowering the gate will cause an increase in river flow, we do not expect the river to rise out of banks," Kenan-Norman said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the river level at the Atlantic Avenue Station was 17 feet below flood stage.

Emergency officials are urging residents to take steps now to be prepared for the storm:

■ Secure outdoor objects.

■ Fuel vehicles.

■ Check smoke detectors.

■ Have spare batteries.

■ Don't use charcoal grills inside.

■ Don't try to drive on flooded roads.

■ Allow generators to cool before refueling.

Gather emergency supply kits with enough bottled water and non-perishable food to sustain each family member for three to seven days, according to state and local emergency officials.

Prepare to be without electricity for several days or even weeks.

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a state of emergency for the entire state and ordered a mandatory evacuation for coastal areas.

“The waves and wind in this storm may be like nothing you have ever seen,” Cooper said. “Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don't bet your life on riding out this monster.”

In Rocky Mount, the Swift Water Emergency Rescue Team is gearing up for action. Firefighters accounted for 472 water rescues in the city, which included five dogs, during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The rescue team became better organized and equipped after 1999's disastrous Hurricane Floyd.

2-1-1 operators are available to answer questions about Hurricane Florence resources and connect people with any help they need.

The U.S. House members representing Nash and Edgecombe counties joined forces with the state's entire Congressional delegation in sending a successful letter to the White House requesting the approval of an emergency declaration.

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-1st District, said the state faces imminent danger from Hurricane Florence.

“North Carolinians need to get ready for this storm now and take steps to protect their families and property," Butterfield said. "State and federal resources are being positioned to properly prepare for the effects of the storm."

Butterfield said he's suspending work in Washington, D.C., in order to be to in his Congressional district and assist wherever possible.

U.S. Rep. George Holding, R-2nd District, said he would continue to work with federal, state and local authorities to monitor and respond to the storm.

"It’s not a question of if Florence is going to hit, it’s a question of how bad," Holding said.

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