Officals say Hermine is moving quickly, minimizing damage, but emergency response is standing by

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Governor Pat McCrory briefs the media on the weekend plans for Tropical Storm Hermine at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday morning that the state is activating a Level 3 emergency management plan as Tropical Storm Hermine approaches North Carolina. Overnight, Hermine was downgraded from a hurricane and is cutting a path through the southeastern U.S. In North Carolina, crews are preparing for the worst but anticipating the best.”Winds aren’t going to be as strong as anticipated — our biggest concern right now is if there is any stalling factor, but based upon weather forecasts, I got this morning they don’t anticipate a stall,” said McCrory in a press conference Friday morning at National Guard headquarters in Raleigh. “We want this thing to move in and out as quick as possible with as little damage to trees, utilities, roads and people…We hope to be over-prepared and underwhelmed, but we are always anticipating the unexpected based on past experience.” Forecasts are saying the highest precipitation is expected to be six to eight inches of rain with 30 to 40 miles per hour of sustained winds. Officials are on guard for any tornadoes or flooding and say that storm surges and rip currents at the coast will likely continue into next week. On Thursday, Gov. McCrory declared a state of emergency for 33 eastern counties. At 5 p.m. on Thursday, Hyde County declared a state of emergency and issued evacuation for Ocracoke Island visitor. Carteret and Pamlico counties are releasing students early from schools and the Red Cross is ready to deploy resources for shelter operations across the eastern part of the state. Already in South Carolina, more than 13,000 customers are without power. On site at the Emergency Management Center, public safety personnel, representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the Red Cross and a FEMA liaison are all standing by, watching the path of Hermine. “We are getting roads ready to clear, Duke Energy has deployed 150 workers throughout eastern N.C. to conduct restoration efforts. We do expect loss of power with the high winds,” said state emergency management director Michael Sprayberry.With staging areas in Kinston and New Bern, rescue personnel are ready to deploy as Hermine approaches. Two swift water rescue teams, each containing four boats and night vision equipment, are deployed from Buncombe County and the Charlotte Mecklenburg area. The Department of Public Safety says that while they are anticipating that Hermine moves quickly out the of area, they are ready for the worst.”We also have 96 other swift water rescue teams technicians along with 27 boats on alert if needed, along with three helio-aquatic rescue teams with three platforms; a Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard, a Lacoda helicopter from the National Guard, and the Bell 407 from the State Highway Patrol,” said Sprayberry. “Of course, we can’t launch those birds until after the storm passes, but they will be ready tomorrow and once it passes if we have any need for aquatic rescue.”For farmers, Hermine could mean heavy damage to crops. Gov. McCrory signed a transportation waiver and lifted the weight restrictions on trucks so that farmers could get crops out of the fields before Hermine’s waters oversaturates the land, and utility trucks could activate quickly to restore power. However, the biggest problems in a tropical storm are most often caused by dangerously fast rising waters.”We want everyone to please be safe, especially with any high waters on our rivers or the ocean, rivers and streams, especially in Eastern North Carolina. In Kinston or Greeville, those rivers can rise, as we know from previous storms, very, very quickly. Please stay from those streams, and keep your kids away from them also,” warned McCrory. “Please do not drive your car through any flooded roadways. Not only are you putting yourself and your family at risk, you are putting our emergency operations people at risk and our troopers.”The Emergency Management center is expecting to be fully operational by 1 p.m. and watching the storm’s path. Updates are expected throughout the day.”Please be smart during the next 24 hours and lets get through this storm, and we will all get to enjoy a wonderful Labor Day whether it be up in the mountains at the Apple Festival or those remaining days that we have in our coastal communities.”