WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a state of emergency for the state of North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Isaias, which is expected to hit the state sometime next week.
As of 2 p.m., the storm is tracking toward the East Coast and is expected to hit North Carolina as a Category 1 Hurricane on Monday or Tuesday. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the model, all of which will be better understood by Saturday night or Sunday morning as the system moves north from Florida.
“Please follow any local evacuation orders that may be issued,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said residents and visitors should first try to stay with family or friends or at a hotel if they can afford it. If not, both non-congregate and congregate shelters will be set up as a last resort, but Cooper cautioned that the occupancy for congregate shelters will be severely limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
People in need of a shelter will be screened for symptoms and given personal protective equipment. If someone has COVID-19, the state will provide other sheltering options where it is easier for people to isolate.
“With right protection and sheltering, we can keep people safe from he storm while at the same time trying to avoid making the pandemic worse,” Cooper said. “A hurricane during a pandemic is double trouble but the state has been preparing for this scenario so that we can do our best to keep people safe from the weather as well as the virus.”
Cooper remained confident that emergency teams from other states, including swift water rescue teams, would be readily available to help North Carolinians if needed.
“I would think that we would still want to respond to another state that has a problem with a natural disaster,” Cooper said. “I would think there would still be states that would want to help us.”
However, Cooper and Sprayberry recognized that fewer doctors and nurses may be available to help, both from out of state and in North Carolina, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m not worried, but I’m concerned about the number of assets we can get in here that would be medical in nature,” Sprayberry said. “But I think we could hold our own pretty well if we had to.”
Sprayberry also said he wasn’t necessarily worried about a shortage of volunteers, as he was confident that between the American Red Cross, the Division of Human Services, local county volunteers and state contractors, shelters would be adequately staffed.
Sprayberry recommended that residents, especially those who live in coastal counties follow the Know Your Zone guidelines. He recommended that people plan their evacuation routes in advance and put together a hurricane preparedness kit–including masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
“We will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst with Hurricane Isaias,” Cooper said.