Residents urged to plan now for hurricane this weekend

Pulaski County officials are urging residents to make preparations now as Hurricane Florence takes aim for the Southeastern U.S. coast.

Florence strengthened this afternoon into a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds.

Landfall is predicted Thursday night into early Friday morning, somewhere along the coast from the Chesapeake Bay to the Georgia – South Carolina border.

Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday in order to mobilize personnel and resources for storm impacts, and to speed the response to those communities that are damaged by the storm.

Supervisors Chairman Andy McCready announced this morning in Dublin that Pulaski County has an existing hurricane, high wind and flood plan, and county staff began reviewing the plan earlier this morning.

McCready said a meeting is planned for 1:30 p.m. today with all concerned parties about preparations for this weekend’s hurricane.

“This will include the county, towns, emergency services first responders, Appalachian Power, the sheriff’s office, school system for shelters, etc.,” McCready said.

Noting Hurricane Florence will be a developing situation throughout the week, McCready advised county residents to consider now what supplies they may need should they be out of electrical power for up to three days.

“They need to consider what they will need to sustain themselves, including medications,” he stated.

“If we do have high winds – 50 mph or higher – with heavy rain, we’ll have a lot of trees blown over, which will close roads and hamper the ability of emergency responders to respond,” he said.

“Please start making preparations now, and also consider that – with flash flooding – things can float away. One of the things we really have problems with are propane tanks floating away,” McCready advised citizens. “Please secure your propane and home heating oil tanks away from potential flood waters.”

McCready said the county will open its Emergency Operations Center in the Maple Shade Plaza on Tuesday.

“That facility is the nerve center of all of our resources,” McCready said.

“Given the widespread areas that could be impacted I’m sure the state will have resources eventually, but we always go into these things planning that we must take care of ourselves for a couple of days,” he added.

“We won’t be having hurricane force winds here,” McCready predicted. “But the biggest risk for us right now appears to be rain – up to 15 inches possibly – in a relatively short amount of time. With rain soaking the ground and trees, if we get moderate winds or winds in excess of 50 mph we’ll start having blown over trees closing roads and cutting power.”

McCready also advised residents to secure items that could be blown away.

“If you live in a low-lying area, make plans now to be ready to move if necessary. Try not to get yourself caught in a position in which you have to be rescued by boat,” he added.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, the National Weather Service was calling for scattered showers and thunderstorms through Thursday, with a few of possibly producing locally heavy rainfall each day, mainly during the afternoon and evening, resulting in localized flooding.

From the National Weather Service:

Looking toward the end of the week, there is increasing potential that Hurricane Florence will move inland along the South Carolina or North Carolina coast line, then track slowly west to northwest into western North Carolina, then potentially stall or meander about the western North Carolina, southwest Virginia, eastern Tennessee area for several days into early next week.

While confidence in this scenario is increasing, there remains much uncertainty in a specific forecast and it will be later this week before such details are better known and can be refined.

However, the currently projected scenario could result in catastrophic flooding rainfall across the mountains of western North Carolina, western Virginia, and eastern West Virginia. Strong and gusty winds could also impact much of the forecast area late this week and into the weekend, and last for a considerable length of time as well causing damage to trees and power lines.

It is imperative that all residents of the forecast area closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence and remain abreast of the latest forecasts, watches, and warnings issued throughout the week.

Please continue to monitor the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and local National Weather Service forecast offices over the next several days.