Oak Island releases after-action report on Hurricane Florence

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OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) —  Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Florence came ashore bringing strong winds, storm surge, and excessive rain. The storm caused a lot of damage in our area.

The results of an after-action report are helping Oak Island leaders draft new policies and procedures to better prepare for the future.

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Although things look fairly normal now, the report states that the town suffered approximately $11 million in damage from Florence.

“Within an hour after the storm passes, we’ll get the team in, we’ll send them out there, we’ll do the assessment,” said Oak Island Development Services Director Steve Edwards. “We’ll go each street, each house, take a look at it and we’ll generate a spreadsheet of the damaged homes.”

Working alongside Brunswick County Emergency Management, the Town of Oak Island has released an after-action report, detailing damage and listing recommendations for improved disaster response in the future. One of those recommendations is making a list of key staff members who need to stay on the island during an emergency situation.

“We were trying to get staff back on the island so we could do things, bring everything back up,” said Town Manager David Kelly. “And that was another reason why we had a little bit of delay getting the bridge back open. As far as the study, it also showed that we have to do a meal plan for the people that do stay on the island.”

Another potential issue is making sure the town has access to fuel.

“We looked at our fuel supplies that we have, we did go through a different company, we can use credit cards off the island to be able to get fuel in, and we can go to stores on the island to be able to get fuel,” Kelly said.

The need for better communication is a theme throughout the report, including putting out evacuation warnings earlier, improving communications with the public, and using radios as a backup to cell phones.

“The town used to have a radio system that we used for every department, but we went away from that and went to cell phones,” Kelly said. “But that is something that we’re looking at going back to have as a backup.”

Kelly says a project to replace dunes damaged by Hurricane Matthew is set to begin in January 2020, and a project to replace dunes damaged by Florence will begin in 2021.

Kelly said misinformation on social media was also an issue, and residents should check the town’s website and social media for correct information during an emergency situation. He also said they have improved their ability to post messages on the town’s public access channel and phone recordings.