Local officials track Earl

Published 10:15 am Thursday, September 2, 2010

Emergency Management coordinators across the Roanoke-Chowan area are urging citizens to keep their eye on Hurricane Earl.

As of Wednesday evening, Bertie County was among those counties listed as having a hurricane warning. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area and is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical force winds.

The storm is expected to take a turn more out to sea with the help of a cold front tracking in from the north, but area emergency management coordinators are advising vigilance.

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

On Wednesday afternoon, Freeman said low storm surge and rainfall is still being predicted for the county and a flooding event is not expected.

Freeman said the county could see some strong winds of 40 to 45 mph with the storm early Friday, but as of Wednesday officials were expecting the majority of the system to stay out to sea.

“As long as it stays off the coast we should be okay,” he said.

Freeman noted uncertainty with tropical storm systems and stated the estimates and predictions could change in a blink of an eye. Therefore, he urged citizens to do their own monitoring of the storm and to make sure they are prepared with a hurricane kit and plans.

“This is a good time to practice and get your plans together,” said Freeman.

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.

On Wednesday, Northampton County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Byers said he has been monitoring the situation with Hurricane Earl as well, but is not expecting a flooding event with predictions of the storm remaining off the coast.

“Right now they’re saying we’ll be lucky to get any rain from it,” he said. “At 12 noon tomorrow they’re expecting it to turn.”

Byers said, however, if Earl does not turn officials are predicting the storm to affect the area like Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

He also warned citizens to keep track of the storm closely and to have their plans in place.

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.

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;



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

On Tuesday, Hertford County Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Smith estimated 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.