Although Hurricane Irma likely will not affect eastern North Carolina as much as previously expected, officials with the City of Greenville are making preparations in case the storm’s track shifts.
“We want residents to know that we are on top of things,” Mayor Kandie Smith said during a 5 p.m. news conference on Friday. “We are monitoring the storm and the city is preparing its emergency personnel, infrastructure and assists.
“We realize that last October and Hurricane Matthew were not that long ago,” Smith said. “We want people to know that we are watching that storm and we will be ready if something happens.”
As of Friday afternoon, Hurricane Irma was expected to make landfall in Florida as a major hurricane this weekend and the center is expected to track inland over Georgia and Tennessee.
Although Hurricane Irma will weaken after landfall, its large size will spread rain bands into North Carolina late Sunday night through early Wednesday. Winds may gust more than 45 mph at times and isolated tornadoes are possible. Periods of heavy rain also may occur which could lead to flash flooding in areas.
“We have had more than eight inches of rain in the last week or so,” Public Works Director Kevin Mulligan said during the news conference. “Additional heavy rains can lead to flooding in some areas. We have crews out clearing the city’s catch basins and culverts so any rain we get can drain.”
Police Chief Mark Holtzman said the department is urging residents not to attempt to drive through flooded areas if flooding does occur in the city. Smith said the city’s motto is “turn around, don’t drown.”
“That’s really good advice,” Holtzman said. “During Matthew we had to rescue dozens of drivers that thought they could drive through water and couldn’t. It doesn’t even take that much water for that to occur … a lot less than you would think.”
Smith asked that residents do not attempt to go around any barricades that city personnel may place in roadways.
“This is to ensure their safety as well as the safety of first responders that would have to rescue them,” Smith said. “We do not want to put any lives in harm’s way.”
Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Griffin said that his department’s personnel will be ready if the storm’s trach shifts and causes more serious effects in eastern North Carolina.
“We know that things can change very quickly,” Griffin said. “We continue to monitor the hurricane and are working with Pitt County Emergency Management to prepare for whatever happens … we have learned our lessons from the past and we will be ready.”
Smith urged residents to make their own preparations for Hurricane Irma.
“We are asking people to please check their emergency supply kits,” Smith said. “It should have enough supplies to last 3-7 days and that should include pets as well.”
Smith said items included in a supply kit could include:
• Non-perishable food
• Battery-powered radio
• First aid kit
• Extra batteries
- • Medications
- • Cellphone with chargers and a backup battery
Smith said the city will alert residents of any change in the storm’s path through local media outlets and on the city’s website at www.greenvillenc.gov.
“No matter what happens, you will not be surprised,” she said. “We will make sure citizens are aware of what is going on and how we can assist them.”
The National Weather Service issued the following tips for residents during a hurricane:
* Know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.
* Contact your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
* Keep a list of contact information for reference which could include:
• Emergency Management Offices
• County Law Enforcement
• County Public Safety Fire/Rescue
• State, County and City/Town Government
• Local Hospitals
• Local Utilities
• Local American Red Cross
• Local TV Stations
- Local Radio Stations
• Your Property Insurance Agent * Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations. Help community members do the same.
* Be sure to plan for locations away from home.
* Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters.
* Prepare your boat and be aware of marine safety if you are on or near the water.
* Be alert for tornadoes – they are often spawned by hurricanes.
* If evacuated, wait until an area is declared safe before returning home.