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Local agencies are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best as Hurricane Dorian inches its way closer to North Carolina.
The storm’s projected impact for Wilson County includes damaging wind and rain all day Thursday and into Friday, officials said Tuesday.
Wilson could see between 2 to 6 inches of rain and wind speeds up to 55 mph. Localized flooding could also be an issue, weather officials say.
“We are going to keep monitoring,” said Gordon Deno, Wilson County Emergency Management director. A tropical storm watch was issued for Wilson County before noon Tuesday. Weather officials urge residents to pay close attention as additional information regarding potential warnings and watches is announced.
Deno said there are no immediate plans to open a shelter.
“If we see the need to change that, then we will get that information out and will let residents know,” he said. “If people think they are not safe in their homes, they should first try to stay with family or friends or a hotel.”
Deno also urged residents not to call 911 inquiring about a storm shelter. He said calls to 911 regarding that question began Tuesday, and it ties up the line for real emergencies.
Deno said preparedness shouldn’t be a last-minute effort when a hurricane is on its way, but it should be something people do all the time. A hurricane can be life-changing for families and homes. And that’s why it’s vital for residents to expect the unexpected when it comes to severe weather. Residents should have supplies that will last at least 72 hours. That means food, water, medication and any other essential items, officials said.
SCHOOLS AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
Wilson County Schools officials said they are also monitoring the storm based on information from the National Weather Service and Wilson County Emergency Management. Officials said they would make an announcement Wednesday regarding any schedule changes.
Amber Lynch, the school system’s public relations director, said there is a process in determining if schools will be open or closed during inclement weather. Lynch said school staff members are fortunate to have a close working relationship with Deno, who keeps them informed and also invites officials to sit in on emergency management conference calls with other counties as everyone prepares for what might be coming.
Superintendent Lane Mills also keeps a close eye on the weather and contacts surrounding superintendents for their input as well, Lynch said.
“Our first priority is the safety of our students and staff,” she said. “In the past, there have been some instances where we closed or delayed and were not affected by inclement weather, but that is a chance we are willing to take. Because predicting the weather is not an exact science, we will always err on the side of caution.”
CITY IS WORKING AHEAD
Rebecca Agner, the city of Wilson’s communications and marketing director, said all departments are preparing for the storm, including the public works staff, who will be blanketing the city.
“Catch basin cleanup is a major priority right now,” Agner said, adding that multiple crews will be out clearing storm drains as well. She said crews are also prepared to assemble sandbags depending on the storm’s path. Agner said stormwater ponds are being drawn down to increase storage capacity.
Crews will also be clearing debris from city streets over the next couple days. Agner said residents can help their efforts by not placing any additional items to be picked up until after the storm.
“We will not be able to continue curbside junk pickups until the storm has passed,” Agner said.
• Barton College announced Tuesday the decision to postpone the 365-Day Countdown Kickoff from Thursday to Oct. 16 due to the storm. The event was scheduled to be one year from the college’s first football game and include games, food and activities.
• The Wilson Chamber of Commerce also decided to reschedule the third installment of the Public Policy Series that was scheduled for noon Thursday. Charlie Perusse, state budget director, now is scheduled to speak at noon on Sept. 12. Those already registered who can attend on the new day do not need to do anything, but registered attendees who are unable to attend are asked to email email@example.com for a refund.
• The 1st Fridays on the Lawn concert scheduled for Friday has been canceled, not moved inside as with previous concerts.
Families should have an emergency plan and an emergency supply kit ready to go at all times. The kit should contain enough nonperishable food and a gallon of water per person per day to last three to seven days. The kit should also include the following essentials:
• Copies of insurance papers and identification sealed in a watertight plastic bag.
• First aid kit.
• Weather radio and batteries.
• Supply of prescription medicines.
• Changes of clothes.
• Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant.
• Cash or checkbook.
• Whistle to signal for help.
• Pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding and vaccination records.
People should stay informed during a storm by keeping a battery-powered radio for weather and evacuation information and should know evacuation routes in their community. They also need to heed the warnings of state and local officials and evacuate quickly when told to do so.
For more information, visit www.readync.org.