State officials encourage everyone to be storm ready


RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — While it’s too early to tell what impacts Hurricane Irma may have on North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper is encouraging North Carolina residents and visitors to update their emergency plans and kits and stay tuned to local media.

The Category 5 hurricane is approaching the Leeward Islands, the current track places the storm in the Florida Keys early Sunday.

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“You can never be too prepared for an emergency,” Governor Cooper said. “We know from Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Harvey that storm tracks can shift quickly and that’s why North Carolina isn’t waiting to get ready. These tropical systems can pack a powerful punch and those who are prepared ahead of time will fare better.”

State officials are monitoring Irma and studying forecast tracks closely. Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said state emergency management officials are coordinating with local officials and state partners to ensure they have what they need and that their teams and supplies are ready should the storm impact North Carolina.

Officials with North Carolina’s State Emergency Operations center say there’s no such thing as being over prepared.

“We’re stepping it up right now,” said Mike Sprayberry, the director for emergency management. “We’re prepared to work in the coming days to ensure the state emergency response team is well prepared.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation is also getting ready for possible Irma-related repairs. NCDOT crews from the mountains to the coast are proactively checking supplies and equipment to make sure everything is stocked and in good working order. This includes ensuring that they have their inventory of drainage pipes in place or on order ahead of the storm.

They are also talking to officials in South Carolina and Virginia, in case the states have to work together on an evacuation.

“Visitors will be asked to evacuate first, and if the situation worsens, then you’ll see them ask for residents to leave,” said Sprayberry. “We have the capability to open shelters as folks evacuate, although we find that a lot of people like to stay with family and friends when they evacuate.”

Last week, Governor Cooper declared September as North Carolina Emergency Preparedness Month and urged residents and visitors to plan for future emergencies, including by downloading the free ReadyNC app for real-time weather, flooding, traffic and shelter information.

“We’ve already developed our conception of operations,” said Sprayberry. “We refine it with every disaster. I will tell you that I’m sure there’s some good lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey, those haven’t been shared with us yet, so we’ll continue to go with our own concept of operations that we think is tried and true for North Carolina.”

Sprayberry says FEMA will be sending a representative to North Carolina this week to have more discussions about preparing for this storm.

To ensure your family is storm ready:

  • Get your emergency kit ready. Be sure your emergency supplies kit has enough bottled water and non-perishable food to sustain each family member for three to seven days. Include a weather radio, flashlight, extra batteries, toiletries, change of clothes, blankets or sleeping bag, rain gear and appropriate footwear. Also include copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.
  • Plan for your pets. Gather supplies for your pet and put them in an easily-accessible container.
  • Prepare your home. Clean out gutters and clear property of debris that could damage buildings in strong winds. Supplies needed to secure your home, such as lumber and shutters, should be purchased now, and window casings pre-drilled.
  • Find out your flood risk. Determine if you are in a flood plain or flood-prone area.
  • Learn evacuation routes for your area. Listen to local officials and evacuate as instructed.
  • Keep up with weather advisories. Stay tuned to local news for the latest advisories from the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center (NHC), as well as state and local emergency management officials.

As Irma moves toward a possible impact on the continental U.S., Texas is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey and North Carolinians have been helping with those efforts, including search and rescue and swift water teams. Those crews will return home before the weekend and be ready to support storm response here in North Carolina if needed.