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Local officials prepare for Earl

As the projected path of Hurricane Earl continues to be uncertain, local emergency management officials are prepared for the storm if it draws closer to the coast.

Each of the emergency management coordinators for Hertford, Northampton and Bertie counties have been in touch with state agencies and the regional National Weather Service office and are closely monitoring the storm’s movement.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Outer Banks were included in the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty.

According to Hertford County Management Coordinator Chris Smith, the latest briefing he received on Tuesday from state and weather officials estimates a storm surge of four-to-five feet at the Albemarle Sound, which feeds into the Roanoke-Chowan area’s rivers and tributaries.

Smith said that surge would equate to an approximately a one to two foot surge inland. He added only one half of an inch to an inch of rain fall is expected. With those preliminary forecasts, Smith said the storm would not be a flooding event.

“We’re monitoring it every day,” he said. “It’s one of those things that could change hour by hour.”

However, Hertford County is prepared if the storm tracks closer to the area. Designated shelters including Hertford County High School in Ahoskie (which also serves as a shelter for evacuating coastal residents) and Hertford County Middle School in Murfreesboro have been identified. Smith noted at this time none are opened as shelters.

Smith urged citizens to have their own plans already in place as well as an emergency kit in case the storm tracks closer. The Hertford County Emergency Management web site (http://www.co.hertford.nc.us/HCES/HertfordEM.html) offers tips about hurricane preparedness.

In Bertie County, Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Freeman has been conferencing with state agencies and weather officials about the track of Hurricane Earl.

He also noted with the current predicted low storm surge at the sound and low rain fall, the storm should not have much impact on the area.

“A high storm surge is not expected at the Albemarle Sound,” he said. “Right now we expect to continue to track (toward the coast) and then turn (out to sea).”

In the past, Windsor has been affected by flooding by way of the Cashie River.

Freeman said he along with other officials would continue closely watch the hurricane’s path.

While Bertie County does not have any shelters designated for evacuating coastal residents, Freeman said nearby Martin and Washington counties do have shelters there.

As for designated local shelters, Freeman said there are three identified including Bertie Prep (old Southwestern Middle School), Colerain Elementary School and West Bertie Elementary near Kelford.

If there is a need for urgent information to get out to citizens, Freeman said the county’s “First Call” mass communication system would be activated.

Northampton County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Byers said he has been monitoring the situation with Hurricane Earl as well, but is not expecting much storm surge.

Low lying areas in the county include areas in Severn and Seaboard and Byers said the county has two swift water rescue teams on standby if any flooding were to occur.

“We typically do not have any problems with storm surge,” he said. “Most of our flooding comes from heavy rains (that cause rivers to flood).”

Byers said the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson is designated as a shelter for coastal evacuees. Meanwhile, primary shelters for the citizens of Northampton County include Conway Middle School and Northampton County High School West in Gaston.

Northampton County’s CodeRED Emergency notification system will keep citizens abreast of urgent information regarding the hurricane if it changes course.

“Hopefully this storm will turn as expected,” said Byers. “However, it is important for each citizen to have their own plan in place.”

Byers suggested citizens create an emergency kit filled with non-perishable food, water, medical prescriptions and paperwork.

Furthermore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests you pack:

Battery operated radio and batteries so you can get important information from local officials;

First aid kit;

Flashlight;

Maps

Important documents such as proof residence, pictures of your family including pets, insurance policies, tax records and comfortable clothing and blankets.