Gov. Roy Cooper made a strong plea for residents to remain at the ready during a briefing on Thursday morning in Raleigh as a weakened but still dangerous Hurricane Florence moved closer.
”We cannot underestimate this storm,” he said. “Our greatest concern about this storm remains the same — storm surge and massive flooding. Catastrophic effects will be felt across the state. The storm surge is expected to be 9 to 13 feet (the second story of a house).
“Floodplain experts know from storm surge alone that thousands of structures are expected to be flooded,” he added. “If local officials tell you to seek higher ground, listen to them.”
Hurricane Florence, which had reached Category 4 status earlier in the week and nearly moved to a Category 5 on Wednesday, was downgraded to a Category 2 by Thursday morning with winds of 105 mph as it approached Wilmington. The reach of the monstrous storm is estimated at about 500 miles wide.
North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen joined Cooper and emphasized the three key health and safety necessities.
“Be prepared with safety kit, do not drive through standing water (and) do not use gas-powered generators inside the home,” she said.
The National Guard reported that 6,400 guardsmen are stationed and ready to spring into action when needed. Gov. Cooper said there are 108 shelters open across the state and they are planning to open megashelters if needed. Cooper compared Florence to Matthew — but worried it could be worse.
“We hope that there isn’t further damage to communities already impacted by hurricane Matthew,” Cooper said. “A total $750 million has been distributed in these communities to date, and we still have teams working on these efforts today. Recovery from a hurricane is a long-term effort.”
He added that he was confident in the efforts that teams and organizations around the state have done to prepare. The governor is working with FEMA and watching everything closely.
“North bCarolina traditionally has had a great relationship with FEMA,” Cooper said. “Representatives are here on the ground, providing equipment and supplies to areas that need it.
“We are confident we will have the support that we need,” he added. “It has been promised and we will hold them to it (but) don’t relax, don’t get complacent (and) stay on guard.”
NCDOT is ready
State transportation staff in all 100 counties have prepared equipment for possible clearing efforts, shoulder repairs and crossline replacements that can be used in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. A total of 2,166 employees in all 14 NCDOT highway divisions have been preparing for Hurricane Florence.
Division 8 — which includes Chatham, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond and Scotland counties — has 206 personnel ready to respond with 76 chainsaws, 11 front-loaders, 16 backhoes, 18 motor graders, 125 barricades, 155 road closed signs and 140 high water signs.
In some areas of North Carolina, crews have staged equipment in different areas so it can be available once cleanup and recovery begins. Generators have been checked and readied, and traffic services offices are staging message boards and loading emergency trailers with barricades, signs and drums. NCDOT staff have made arrangements to have contractors on standby ready to respond to any storm-related tasks such as cutting and removing downed trees from roads.
NCDOT is also preparing active transportation projects for potential impacts. Erosion and control measures have been checked and staff are making sure earth-moving equipment and cranes are secure.
Thirty-one driver license offices in eastern North Carolina and some in central areas of the state were closed by noon Wednesday in preparation for Hurricane Florence. Road tests and mobile office visits were canceled in those affected areas.
Closures and changes to office hours can be found on the office locations page of the official NCDMV website at MyNCDMV.gov. Many DMV services, including renewing driver licenses, ordering duplicate ID cards or renewing vehicle registration, can be done online.
For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on Twitter.
For life-threatening emergencies, call 911.
For a toll-free hotline to speak with a trained specialist, call 211. They can provide you information on shelters, evacuation routes, storm clean-up, volunteer needs, and locating food and water. The service is available 24/7.
For road closures, call 511.
For Coast Guard search and rescue, call 1-757-398-6700.
For help finding fuel/gas, visit gasbuddy.com or download the app.
For shelter locations, visit redcross.org or call 888-892-1162.
For volunteer opportunities, visit nvoad.org.