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Brunswick County battens down for Hurricane Florence

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Both a hurricane watch and a storm surge watch are in effect as Hurricane Florence nears the coastline of the Carolinas.

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The latest National Weather Service forecast Tuesday morning showed a significant increase in rainfall amounts, especially across North Carolina, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

Life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coast, as are damaging hurricane force winds. The bulk of these impacts were expected to occur Thursday afternoon and persist through Friday.

The hurricane was expected to continue on a west-northwest track toward the coast Tuesday night though Friday. Its speed is expected to slow down considerably Friday through Sunday.

Brunswick County issued a mandatory evacuation for residents in unincorporated areas who live in low-lying and flood-prone areas or substandard or mobile homes, beginning at daylight (7 a.m.) Tuesday in response to Hurricane Florence, which the NWS declared a Category 4 hurricane about noon Monday.

The evacuation includes but is not limited to Waccamaw, N.C. 904/Pireway Road, areas on Town Creek, residents along N.C. 133, Daw’s Creek area, and any other flood-prone areas.

Brunswick County has issued a voluntary evacuation for all other residents in unincorporated areas of Brunswick County. Residents who live in an incorporated area should monitor information from their municipality for information.

Brunswick County also declared a state of emergency, effective at noon Monday, Sept. 10. County offices will be closed as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina on Friday.

Hurricane conditions, including very high winds, heavy rain and storm surge, are expected within 48 hours. Life threatening rain, wind, storm surge and flooding are likely, and rain could extend for days, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event.

Emergency medical responders will likely not be able to respond to medical emergencies for those who do not leave the county or seek shelter. Once wind speeds reach a sustained speed of 40 to 45 mph, it will not be safe for fire trucks and ambulances to be on the road. Depending on storm conditions, the inability to respond could extend for days.

Residents seeking to evacuate who do not have transportation should call 253-5383.

Brunswick County Schools are closed from Tuesday, Sept. 11, through Friday, Sept. 14. School related activities scheduled during that time frame are canceled as well. The Brunswick County Board of Education meeting scheduled for Tuesday night at South Brunswick High School has been postponed indefinitely.

Brunswick Community College will close Tuesday, Sept. 11, through Saturday, Sept. 15, and will reopen Monday, Sept. 17, pending local conditions. This includes all activities and Continuing Education classes. Additional information will be posted on BCC’s website, social media pages and shared with local news as it becomes available.

The Brunswick County Planning Board meeting scheduled for Monday night was canceled but will be rescheduled.

Brunswick County Parks remained open until 10 p.m. Monday, but were to be closed for the duration of the county state of emergency. This includes Shallotte, Ocean Isle Beach, Waccamaw, Lockwood Folly, Cedar Grove, Smithville, Town Creek, Leland, Northwest, Brunswick Nature and Dutchman Creek parks.

The household hazardous waste collection scheduled for Sept. 15 at South Brunswick Middle School has been postponed. A new date will be announced after the storm.

 

Shelters

Shelters will open outside Brunswick County in inland counties (shelter information will be available online at https://readync.org). Residents were strongly advised to seek shelter outside of Brunswick County, evacuating to Johnston or Cumberland counties, because of forecasts for wind and storm surge.

“I highly encourage people to move out of the county,” Emergency Management director Brian Watts said in a news release, adding that the county is likely to see high levels of storm surge and flooding as well as wind speeds. “The best thing to do is to get out the county.”

Residents seeking to evacuate from Brunswick County who do not have transportation should call the citizen phone bank at 253-5383.

In the event residents are unable to leave the county, shelters will open Tuesday at 2 p.m. at West Brunswick High School, 550 Whiteville Road, Shallotte;North Brunswick High School, 114 Scorpion Drive, Leland, and South Brunswick High School, 100 Cougar Road, Boiling Spring Lakes.

Residents evacuating to a shelter should bring identification, any needed medications, any needed items like glasses or diapers, clothing for three to seven days, pillows, toiletries, chargers for cell phones, and books, games or cards. Residents should bring sheets or bedding, and cots and air mattresses if available. Alcohol, illegal substances and weapons are not permitted.

Those evacuating can find evacuation routes and shelter locations at readync.orgor in the free Ready NC app (downloadable at https://readync.org/EN/DOWNLOADAPP.html).

Dogs and cats are accepted at all three shelters. Owners must stay at the shelter as well, and should bring documentation of rabies vaccines, food, any medicines and any other items necessary for their pets.

 

Hospitals

Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center's emergency department will remain open to serve the coastal community during Hurricane Florence.

Out of an abundance of caution, some patients at the medical center are being transferred to inland hospitals to continue to receive care until they are able to return home. All local Novant Health physician clinics, outpatient centers, imaging centers and medical record offices will be closed Wednesday through the weekend.

The emergency department at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center will remain open throughout the storm to serve urgent medical needs that may arise in the community. Novant Health team members will care for patients who come in during the storm and once the storm has passed.

Because travel is expected to be hazardous, medical staff caring for patients will stay at the medical center during the storm. As part of the preparations, supplies of water, food, medications, linen and other necessities have been stockpiled for team members and those needing medical care.

The Novant Health emergency preparedness team in the coastal area is in close contact with state and county emergency management officials. Once it is safe to travel again, damage assessment at physician clinics will take place and full services will be restored as soon as possible.

In case of a medical emergency, call 911. If you need to reach the hospital, call 721-1000 or go to Brunswick County’s emergency preparedness website, http://www.brunswickcountync.gov/es/management/.

Inpatient and surgical services at Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport closed effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The emergency department remains open 24/7.

All Dosher Medical Clinics are closed Wednesday through Friday.

 

Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island is under a mandatory evacuation with all residents and visitors to be off the island by the last 9:30 a.m. boat Wednesday, a village official said Tuesday.

 

Belville

Belville declared a state of emergency effective noon Monday. Mayor Mike Allen and town commissioners issued a mandatory evacuation for residents living in low-lying areas, mobile homes and structures that will not sustain high winds to evacuate.

Allen and town commissioners asked all residents, property owners, boating interests and construction sites make preparations in securing their property and be ready to evacuate, if necessary. All residents are advised to secure outdoor furniture, building materials, boats and any other objects that could blow around in high winds. 

“Town officials are in constant contact with emergency management officials and the weather service and will provide ample warning and time to evacuate, should it become necessary,” according to a town news release. “Keep your vehicles fueled and familiarize yourself with locations of emergency shelters and the best possible routes to them.”

 

Boiling Spring Lakes

Boiling Spring Lakes Mayor Craig Caster declared a state of emergency at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2putting into effect citywide voluntary evacuations for all residents and mandatory evacuations for those who live in low-lying and flood-prone areas or substandard or mobile homes and for the following streets:Pinecrest (from Greeview to Berry Hill), Greenview, Wimberley,Berry Hill (from Warmouth to Wimberley), Oakhurst, Dartmouth, Cherokee Drive,Mohawk, Lumbee, Sioux, Navaho andTuscarora.

A citywide curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 6a.m. starting Wednesday, Sept. 12. The curfew will remain in effect each day thereafter until Police Chief Brad Shirley lifts it. 

City offices for non-emergency operations will be closed Wednesday through Friday. The city will activate its Emergency Operation Center at 8 a.m. Wednesday at city hall.

Emergency calls for service can be made to 363-0025 or 363-0011.

The public should be aware that when winds reach a sustained 74 mph city personnel, including police, will be unable to respond.

 

Calabash

The town of Calabash was preparing Monday for the storm by putting staff on standby, checking equipment and generators, gassing up equipment and vehicles, activating the emergency operations center, declaring a state of emergency and checking ditch and pipe systems.

Town Hall windows and doors will be covered to prevent flying debris from entering the building.

Citizens were urged to monitor the weather through TV and radio, prepare to evacuate if necessary and not to wait until the last minute to evacuate, which should not be contingent on an order from the town.

During the height of the storm, town staff will not be permitted to leave safety or shelter.

Residents were urged to be aware of the closest shelters. Citizens who evacuate or shelter are urged to get their property in order and place everything that could become a projectile inside.

After the storm, residents are asked to stay off roads for their safety.

Go to fema.gov for more information regarding emergencies.

 

Carolina Shores

At the town board of commissioners’ monthly workshop Monday, Sept. 10, Town Administrator Jon Mendenhall presented a revised agenda citing storm preparation as the first order of business. See page 11A for a full report on the workshop.

The hurricane is expected to have strongest impact locally Thursday and Friday, Sept. 13 and 14, including wind potential and flooding possible into Saturday, Sept. 15.

“Think about where you’re going and what you’re doing,” said Mendenhall, citing high, damaging winds that may be risky or dangerous and that could cause significant damage, debris and power loss.

The town issued a state of emergency effective noon Monday. Commissioners also approved an emergency declaration.

“Residents are advised to prepare for the possibility of damaging winds by securing any non-affixed objects in their yard,” the official statement reads.

Special medical-needs residents are urged to contact their medical providers in the event routine services like dialysis are scheduled for later in the week or weekend and to make plans for schedule adjustments if necessary.

Severe rain may cause significant flooding. The town planned to distribute sandbags at its solid waste convenience site starting at noon Monday.

Because of the approach of Hurricane Florence, the town also canceled meetings scheduled this week, including the economic development meeting at 1 p.m. followed by the town board of commissioners’ meeting at 2 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 13.

The solid waste convenience site was scheduled to close at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, until further notice.

Voluntary evacuation was effective at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Residents were advised to complete their evacuation by noon Wednesday, Sept. 12, and to turn off the breakers to their homes to their homes prior to leaving.

 

Holden Beach

Holden Beach declared a state of emergency for the town Monday morning and Monday afternoon declared a mandatory evacuation for visitors and residents.

Non-resident renters and visitors must be off the island by noon Tuesday. Everyone in Holden Beach must be off the island by Wednesday at 8 a.m. The bridge may close sooner if winds reach 45 mph or higher. A roadblock will be set at the bridge at noon Tuesday to restrict entrance to the island, and a command post will be at Holden Beach Town Hall at 112 Rothschild St. until town operations are moved to the Emergency Operations Center at 1044 Sabbath Home Road in Supply. A date and time for this move was not available. Everyone must remain off the island until a proclamation allows them to return.

A proclamation from Mayor Alan Holden said the state of emergency was effective at 10 a.m. in response to the forecasted track of Hurricane Florence, which went from a Category 2 hurricane to a Category 4 hurricane in a matter of hours Monday.

Holden also originally issued a voluntary evacuation for Holden Beach, also effective 10 a.m. Monday. Town Manager David Hewett said in a Monday afternoon email that decals to get back onto the island following Florence will not be issued to residents after 5 p.m. Tuesday. Decals are limited to one per property owner. Hewett also reminded residents to secure all loose items under homes, elevate or move any items on ground level, move any boats from the boat lift and remove them from canals and secure any docks. Contractors also need to secure their job sites, he said. If a mandatory evacuation of Holden Beach is issued, Hewett reminded residents to make sure they turn their propane tanks off and shut off their water at the street.

Run Holden Beach, set for Saturday, has been canceled as a result of Florence, host Coastal Race Productions announced Monday. According to the Coastal Race Productions website, the town is going to wait until the storm has passed to assess any damage and decide if the company can have a postponed race date.

“Living directly in the middle of the projected path, we are preparing our homes and planning evacuations ourselves,” the website update reads. “What we promise you is that we will be proactive with providing updates and status on options available to all runners in the coming weeks after the storm.”

 

Leland

Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman announced the town was in a state of emergency effective at 1 p.m. Monday. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 12, a town-wide curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will remain in effect until Police Chief Mike James lifts the curfew.

A mandatory evacuation will be in effect for residents who live in low-lying and flood-prone areas or substandard or mobile homes, beginning at daylight (7 a.m.) Tuesday.  A voluntary evacuation is issued for all other residents. Shelter information is available online at https://readync.org.

Beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday in Leland, possession or consumption of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, and spirituous liquor, other than on one’s own premises will be prohibited. Also, the transportation or possession, or the sale or purchase of any dangerous weapon or substance, while off one’s own premises, is prohibited.

The restriction does not apply to individuals or groups of people responsible for the preservation of the public’s health, safety or welfare or to any law enforcement officers, military personnel assigned for hurricane disaster duties, emergency medical personnel, or any other individual or groups of individuals whose job/employment assists the public’s health, safety, or welfare, including fuel delivery personnel and utility repair personnel.

Town offices and the Leland Cultural Arts Center will close Wednesday, Sept. 12, and remain closed until weather conditions improve. Town offices and the LCAC are tentatively scheduled to reopen Monday, Sept. 17, but operations may be altered.

The debris dropoff facility at 187 Old Lanvale Road will also be closed Wednesday, Sept. 12, and Saturday, Sept. 15.

Updates will be provided at TownofLeland.com and through Facebook at  facebook.com/townofleland/, Twitter @Townofleland and Nextdoor Town of Leland.

If you have an emergency, call 911.

 

Northwest

Northwest Mayor James Knox declared a state of emergency for the city effective Wednesday, Sept. 12. Only emergency management personnel, law enforcement officers, firefighters, council members and public employees, medical and military personnel, members of the news media, state local and federal officials with emergency management authority, disaster relief personnel and crews working under contract for the city will be allowed access when acting in the line of their duties.

 

Oak Island

Oak Island Mayor Cin Brochure declared a state of emergency, mandatory evacuation for visitors and tourists and voluntary evacuations for residents and nonresident property owners effective noon Monday. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for residents and non-resident property owners effective at noon Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Oak Island Town Council’s public hearing and regular meeting for Tuesday, Sept.11, was canceled and rescheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9.

 

Ocean Isle Beach

The Odell Williamson Bridge to Ocean Isle Beach will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ocean Isle Beach officials decided Monday afternoon while declaring a state of emergency.

Town commissioners voted to require the mandatory evacuation of renters, vacationers and visitors by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11. Property owners had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to evacuate.

The OIB town hall will close at noon Wednesday to allow non-essential personnel to evacuate.

The emergency staff will also shut off water to the island at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

No trash pickup will occur before the storm.

After the bridge closing, the police department will try to make note of anyone who chose to remain on the island, but Town Administrator Daisy Ivey advised against staying on the island as Hurricane Florence is expected to land as a major storm.

Ivey said once the town gets back to the point people may return to the island after the storm, property owners will need to have a decal to cross the bridge.

Monday is the last day to get a decal as the town policy is to not issue them within 48 hours of an emergency event.

Those returning to the island without a decal will be directed to the future town hall property at 111 Causeway Drive where they must present proof of residence like a tax or water bill.

Ivey also advised residents to shut off propane tanks when they evacuate.       

The town will also not allow surfing after the bridge closes to keep from putting emergency personnel in danger during the storm.

Updates will be presented on the town’s social media sites and residents are encouraged to sign up for CodeRed notifications at oib.gov.

 

Shallotte

Shallotte Mayor Walt Eccard declared a state of emergency for the town effective 4 p.m. Monday.

In the declaration, Eccard ordered a mandatory evacuation of all residents who live in low-lying and flood-prone areas or who live in substandard or mobile housing and voluntary evacuation for all other residents beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Eccard also said town offices will close at noon Wednesday, Sept. 12, with all essential storm-related personnel remaining on duty as needed.

 

Southport

Southport Mayor Jerry Dove declared a state of emergency effective at 2:15 p.m. Monday, calling for a mandatory evacuation of all visitors and tourists and voluntary evacuation of all residents that day. He ordered a mandatory evacuation of all residents beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12.

 

St. James

St. James has a voluntary evacuation in place, with town hall set to close at noon Tuesday and remain closed the rest of the week.

 

Sunset Beach

The town of Sunset Beach declared a state of emergency effective at 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10.

Also effective at 2 p.m. Monday was voluntary evacuation issued for the island, low-lying and flood-prone areas and residents living in substandard or mobile homes on the mainland.

Residents are encouraged to stay out of the ocean due to dangerous rip currents and strong surf conditions that will increase in coming days. Residents are encouraged to complete their preparations within the next 12 to 36 hours by securing/removing outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage/recycling containers, flower boxes/pots, etc.

Residents are also encouraged to finalize their hurricane plan including purchasing needed food and supplies to sustain each member of a household for a minimum of three days and fueling vehicles. Evacuation routes and shelter locations can be found at readync.org.

Information about protective actions is available at weather.gov/safety/hurricane-plan or ready.gov/hurricanes.

Residents are reminded that power outages should be expected and could continue for several days/nights following the storm.

The Mannon C. Gore high-rise bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway will be closed when sustained wind speeds reach 50 mph. When and if a mandatory evacuation is issued for the island and/or mainland, anyone making the decision to stay will be requested to complete a “Next-of-Kin” form.

Once the bridge is closed to outgoing and incoming traffic the following services will cease on the island: emergency medical response, fire, water and sewer service (decision to be made by Brunswick County Public Utilities), electricity and/or phone service (BEMC and ATMC will make these decisions).

Emergency response will cease within town limits and the fire district when deemed unsafe for emergency vehicles to travel.

Town hall has been busy this week issuing hurricane evacuation re-entry passes.

 

Forecast

The National Weather Service National Hurricane Center reported Hurricane Florence rapidly strengthened from a Category 2 to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph Monday.

Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS in Wilmington, reported the storm’s center could arrive at the Brunswick County coast Thursday morning.

Pfaff said the NWS has a high confidence in the forecast for the intensity of Hurricane Florence but low confidence in the forecast for the track the storm will follow.

“The hurricane could fall anywhere in the cone. If we determine it’s over Wilmington, that does not mean you should prepare differently in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) or the Outer Banks,” Pfaff said. 

Brunswick County will see significant rainfall from Hurricane Florence. All residents should be prepared for significant rainfall and the potential for ponding, flooding and flash floods. Residents should not to attempt to drive through roads that have standing or water running over them.

Hurricane Florence continues to strengthen and will threaten the southeastern U.S. coast by Thursday morning, Pfaff said. The storm will continue on a westerly track through Monday night, then a northwest track Wednesday into Friday.

It is too early to determine which areas will receive direct impacts, but everyone across southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina must take it seriously.

Dangerous winds and storm surge are expected Thursday afternoon into Friday, with heavy flooding rain Thursday into Sunday. Impacts in the hardest-hit areas could include widespread structural and tree damage, trees down on buildings, debris and power lines down on roadways, extensive power and communication outages and vessels breaking free from moorings.

Some tornadoes are possible Thursday into Friday for southeastern North Carolina and dangerous maritime and surf conditions with rip currents, large breakers and steep seas are expected through Saturday.

Rainfall amounts and distribution are highly track dependent. This amount of rainfall is expected to lead to flooding, especially near low-lying and flood-prone areas. Rivers in the basins hit by the heaviest rain will experience flooding as well.

Major rainfall flooding may prompt evacuations or result in many rescues. Rivers and streams may overflow their banks in some places. Flood waters can enter structures and people may become cut-off by flooded roads. Roads and low-lying bridge closures are possible with some weakened or washed out. The delivery of drinking water and sewer services may be impacted. There also is the potential for pollution or hazardous materials in any flood waters.

Pfaff said water temperature that is typically in the low 80s for this time of year are closer to 87 and 88 degrees, based on temperatures recorded at Johnny Mercer’s pier in Wrightsville Beach.

“Because of days of east winds and three weeks of direct sunlight, (Hurricane Florence) is really taking off in intensity,” Pfaff said. “Florence will have far-reaching impacts, regardless of where the storm comes ashore.”

Pfaff reported there is a 90 percent chance tropical storm force winds greater than 39 mph will arrive by 8 a.m. Thursday morning on Brunswick County’s coast that would spread inland through the county and region during the day.

The probability of hurricane force wind speeds greater than 74 mph for Brunswick County’s coast was reported at about 50 percent for Thursday morning, he added.

The rainfall total, which Pfaff said depends on the track the storm follows, is expected in Brunswick County to range from 4 to 10 inches.

“But if it just sits here after landfall there could be considerable more rainfall,” he said. “The rivers and basins have been on the low side, which provides a buffer. But that goes away if it sits there.”

 

Utilities and transportation

Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO sanitary district will close Wednesday, Sept. 12, and remain closed until Monday, Sept. 17. Emergency staff will be on call during inclement weather to maintain the viability of infrastructure and attempt to ensure the community has water so long as their safety is not in jeopardy.

Brunswick Electric Membership Corp. said it is prepared for potentially widespread power outages that Hurricane Florence may cause.
“We are always ready to put our expertise and dedication to work,” BEMC CEO and general manager Don Hughes said in a news release. “Our line technicians are among the best in the nation, and all employees are ready to work day and night. They are battle-tested at managing the effects of major storms.”

“The safety of our members and employees is BEMC’s priority,” said Heather Holbrook, spokeswoman for the 97,000-meter electric cooperative. “The goal is to minimize power interruption, and to restore power quickly and safely to our members.”

BEMC’s year round Right-of-Way maintenance program is designed to minimize damage to lines from falling trees and limbs. In addition to state of the art infrastructure planning, Brunswick Electric conducts continuous inspections of all substation and field equipment as part of the co-op’s proactive maintenance plan.

Go to bemc.org for storm prep resources, including an outage map and valuable information including BEMC’s Hurricane Preparation Guide to help keep you and your family safe. Follow Brunswick Electric on Facebook and Twitter for real time updates during hurricanes and other weather crises. Please note that BEMC’s social media channels are not equipped to report outages. Members should only report power outages by calling (800) 682-5309.

Brunswick Transit System announced it would provide limited transportation services Tuesday, Sept. 11, and be closed Wednesday, Sept. 12, through Friday, Sept. 14. Regular services will resume Monday, Sept. 17, as the weather permits, executive director Yvonne Hatcher said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division suspended operations on the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry route as of 7:30 p.m. Monday. The closure will allow the Ferry Division to move the M/V Southport and the M/V Fort Fisher to safer mooring locations.

Ferry Division managers will monitor weather conditions and resume service as soon as it is safe to do so.For real-time updates, follow the Ferry Division on Twitter at @NCDOT_Ferry.

 

Price gouging

The price gouging law that protects consumers from scammers is in effect in North Carolina after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for the state as Hurricane Florence moves toward the coast.

Attorney General Josh Stein notified businesses and consumers Monday to be on the lookout for any issues.

“My office is here to protect North Carolinians from scams and frauds,” he said in a news release. “That is true all the time, but especially during severe weather. It is against the law to charge an excessive price during a state of emergency. If you see a business taking advantage of this storm, please let my office know so we can hold them accountable.”

North Carolina has a strong statute against price gouging — charging too much during a time of crisis — that is tied directly to a declaration of a state of emergency. When Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina on Friday, Sept. 7, the statute went into effect for the entire state and will remain so until the state of emergency is lifted.

Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will review complaints from consumers closely over the next several weeks and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities.

Residents are encouraged top report potential price gouging by calling (877)-5-NO-SCAM (66-7226) or file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

— Compiled by Staff Writers Lindsay Kriz, Laura Lewis and Brian Slattery and Managing Editor Jackie Torok