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The first round of wind and rain brought on by Hurricane Dorian prompted multiple warnings including a radar confirmed tornado between Wilson and Saratoga Thursday afternoon. As of press time, reported damage was to an outside storage building and downed trees in the 4600 block of White Oak Loop. East Nash Volunteer Fire Department personnel removed two trees that had fallen into the road nearby from the 4:09 p.m. tornado.
Bands of heavy rain and strong winds were expected to continue throughout the night and into Friday morning. The heavy rain will also bring a risk of flash flooding. Wilson County was under a flash flood warning throughout the evening Thursday. A flash flood watch will remain in effect until Friday afternoon.
“If you don’t need to be out, don’t be out,” said Wilson Police Sgt. Steve Stroud. He said it’s best for residents to stay inside until the storm has passed.
Stroud also urged residents to not drive through standing water.
“If there is water in the roadway, turn around,” he said. “Report any flooded roads you see; we have officers with barricades who can quickly get them up.”
Officials advise residents not to walk through moving water. They also urge drivers to follow detours and obey traffic barricades that have marked closed roads.
‘A POWERFUL, DANGEROUS STORM’
Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday urged North Carolinians to stay safe and off the roads as well.
“This is a powerful, dangerous storm,” Cooper said in a release. “Do not put yourselves or your families at risk, and do not drive through floodwaters.”
Various agencies around Wilson have been coordinating their efforts to ensure all hands were on deck through Dorian’s duration.
Wilson County requested two high-clearance vehicles from the National Guard ahead of the storm. Those vehicles were stationed in Wilson on Thursday along with six personnel, according to Gordon Deno, Wilson County Emergency Management director. He said those high-clearance vehicles were used during the last two hurricane-related events.
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
As Hurricane Dorian approached Wilson on Thursday, Geraldine Alston didn’t want to take any chances. When the 74-year-old heard that an emergency shelter opened at Fike High School, she made a decision.
“I couldn’t get my stuff packed up fast enough,” said Alston, a Wilson resident who lives by herself. “They talked about it being 8 inches of rain; I didn’t know what might happen.”
She was worried about the heavy rains and high winds forecast for Thursday night into Friday.
“You never know,” Alston said. “It could come here, and it could flood.”
Wilson County opened its emergency shelter Thursday morning in anticipation of the storm. The shelter is staffed with American Red Cross personnel and Wilson County Department of Social Services and health department employees.
Alston said staying at the shelter wasn’t uncomfortable, but if anything, she was grateful to be safe and not have to ride out the storm alone.
“I thank God for this place,” she said. “These people have hearts and know how to treat people.”
A HELPING HAND
Boy Scouts from Troop 8 in Wilson unloaded trailers full of cots, set them up and got everything prepared for those seeking shelter at Fike High.
“It’s what us as Scouts are supposed to do — go out of our way to help our community and help people,” said Boy Scout Shane Trotman. Fellow Boy Scout Caleb Daniels agreed and said it’s also a stressful time for people who might be nervous about the storm.
“You’re just trying to provide that sense of calmness,” Caleb said.
Daniels, along with his brother, Noah, and fellow Boy Scout Chase Harris, said they have volunteered at Wilson shelters during past hurricanes. They said they know how much it helps and plan on being on hand at Fike as long as they’re needed.
Residents can visit the county’s website at www.wilson-co.com or the city’s website at www.wilsonnc.org for information regarding road closures and updates related to Hurricane Dorian.
Drew C. Wilson contributed to this story.