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After the storm – what to expect

As Tropical Storm Hanna bids farewell to the Roanoke-Chowan area, local residents will be left with the task of cleaning up in her wake.

What local residents can expect are flash flooding, downed power lines and perhaps the loss of electricity. The first two are cause for concern.

As of late Friday afternoon, the North Carolina Highway Patrol was gearing up to ensure the roads are safe during the coming storm.

First Sergeant Todd Lane of NCHP Troop A District II told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that in addition to the normal patrol shift, troopers would be standing by, ready to be called in if needed.

Lane further warned motorists to stay off the road both during and after the storm.

“We do ask people to stay off the roadways during the storm and anytime after if it does happen to strike here,” Lane stated.

He continued, “Downed power lines and trees will cause an immediate hazard.

People who venture out to sight-see generally end up causing more of a hazard than they can in offering assistance.”

Lane added, “People need to be aware that if the power lines go down, especially right after the storm these lines are generally live and potentially dangerous.”

He further said that if people absolutely had to drive Friday night or early on Saturday morning, they should be extra cautious.

“If a tree has blown down it will be hard to see and if the roads are wet then the stopping distance after braking will be increased,” Lane noted.

He added, “The positive on the storm would be that it’s going to hit during the evening and will likely be a tropical storm when it comes through.

Hopefully since it will be night, everyone will be off the roadway.”

Lane also advised motorists not to drive through flooded roads. He said if those motorists are unable to see the centerline on the road, it’s not safe to navigate. Additionally, there are cases where fast-moving flood water can actually move a heavy vehicle off the road.

Chuck Penn, a spokesperson for Dominion Power, urged citizens to stay away from downed power lines.

“Consider them to be energized, no matter any obvious signs,” Penn said. “If you do encounter a downed power line, please call us, toll-free, at 888-667-3000 immediately”

Penn also advised residents to turn off all major appliances to prevent overloads once power is restored. He said to leave the power on to one light; so as to know when electricity is restored when that light comes back on.

Additionally, Penn cautioned about the use of portable generators.

“They are very effective, but using them improperly, poor ventilation or connecting them directly into your electrical panel box can prove very dangerous,” he said. “It is also advisable not to overload the generator.”

Marshall Cherry of Roanoke Electric Cooperative said REC employees will work diligently to restore power to its consumer members. Those co-op members can call 1-800-358-9437 to report power outages.

There may also be an issue of flooding from the Albemarle Sound and Chowan River. This is due to Hanna’s possible path that may place the Roanoke-Chowan area on the northeast side of the storm, usually the side that brings the most wind and rain. That wind may push water up the sound and into the river.

Any emergencies that arise from the storm, other than power outages/downed power lines, can be passed along to officials in each county. Citizens can contact their Sheriff’s offices, town police departments or call 9-1-1.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has declared a State of Emergency, directing state and local agencies to cooperate in implementing the North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan.

Easley activated up to 270 members of the National Guard and 12 of the state’s 25 Swift Water Rescue Teams for the central and eastern portions of the state.

In addition, 144 Highway Patrol troopers are on standby for immediate deployment.

The State Emergency Response Team is coordinating state agency response and support to the counties.

The Governor’s Emergency Bilingual Hotline will begin 24-hour operations at 10:00 a.m. Friday.

The hotline will provide updated weather information, shelter locations, feeding sites, highway closings, etc.

After the event, the hotline will serve as a referral line for people in need of help.

Citizens may call toll-free 1-888-835-9966 or TTY 1-877-877-1765.

The Greater Albemarle Area American Red Cross is also ready to swing into action following the storm.

(R-C News-Herald Staff Writer Jennipher Dickens contributed to this story.)