Hurricane Irma is projected to make landfall sometime over the next few days at the southern portion of Florida, but the uncertainty of the impact to North Carolina has left residents preparing for the worst.
By Wednesday night, grocery stores were faced with empty shelves, as bread and water were in great demand. By Thursday at lunch, several gas stations had closed pumps, while others started setting limits to the amounts of gas purchased — all in an effort to be prepared in case Irma decides to strike North Carolina in its path of destruction.
Locally, Sampson County assistant manager and public information officer Susan Holder said the county is preparing, as usual, beginning to monitor the storm’s path more closely and community with various departments and agencies about plans in the event the storm hits.
“We have a check list that we always use prior to storm,” Holder explained. “Right now, we have our staff starting to prepare and make sure we have all the necessary equipment up and running, as well as gas on hand.”
Holder said the county is utilizing social media to get the word out on suggested preparedness efforts for citizens, including the “Sampson County” Facebook page and on Twitter @CountyofSampson.
“Right now, we know there will be some impact to North Carolina, but we just don’t know exactly when or where,” Holder said.
Said to be one of the strongest storms to ever form in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall sometime at the end of the weekend or beginning of next week as a category 5 storm.
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for all 100 counties Wednesday as Hurricane Irma was projected to move away from San Juan, potentially heading for southeastern Bahama islands before it starts to torn towards the Florida coast.
“There is a lot we still don’t know about this storm, but we do know that North Carolina can expect to feel some sort of effects as soon as early next week, and now is the time to get prepared,” Gov. Cooper said. “Wherever you live in North Carolina – from the mountains to the piedmont to the coast – you need to take this storm seriously, and you need to start preparing for some type of impact.”
Cooper said the state of emergency went into effect at 8 a.m. on Thursday, in order to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to the storm. It also waives truck weight, size and hours of service restrictions so that vehicles carrying essential supplies such as food, medicine, fuel or transporting livestock or crops can get their jobs done quickly.
“This executive order will allow our farmers the opportunity to harvest as much of their crops as possible before the storm hits,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The order also will help ensure that livestock, poultry, crops and feed can be moved as necessary. The order also temporarily suspends the maximum hours of service for drivers.
In addition to the waiving of motor vehicle regulations, Troxler stated in a press release that the Agriculture department is temporarily suspending health certificate requirements on livestock traveling through the state from areas in Hurricane Irma’s path.
While much uncertainty still exists about Hurricane Irma’s storm track, meteorologists are predicting that portions of the state could experience wind and rain from the tropical system as early as Monday.
Business owners like Robby James of James Trading Company in Roseboro have been busy over the last few days contacting vendors about resupplying their shelves with storm related items. Thursday morning, James was traveling to pick up a third supply of generators, all already sold.
“I am going to pick up 30 generators,” James said. “It’s all I can carry at one time.”
James said he works hard to make sure he keeps his store stocked during times like hurricanes. While he hopes the storm turns away from North Carolina, he wants to be prepared in the event it hits Sampson County.
“There are a lot of people who were hit by Hurricane Matthew last year,” James explained. “They are getting prepared for this storm as soon as they can.”
In addition to generators, James said chainsaws, tarps, gasoline cans and cleanup supplies are going off the shelves as fast as he can get them in the store.
“Half of my vendors are out of everything people need,” James said. “You have the entire east coast, from North Carolina to Florida, preparing for the same storm and purchasing the same items.”
The Roseboro business owner says he wants to take care of his customers and their needs and will continue to remain in contact with vendors and get supplies in as quickly as he can.
A hurricane watch was issued for south Florida, the Florida Keys and other portions of the southern state as the thread of dangerous major hurricane winds and rains are expected to impact the state.
The National Weather Service indicates a chance of direct impacts to portions of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Some of the hurricane safety tips provided by the county include:
• Creating an emergency plan, noting safe locations, and reviewing it with everyone in the home
• Stocking up on supplies, including necessities such as water, blankets, first-aid kits, flashlights, batteries, radios and any pet care items
• Having an out-of-town contacts to they can check on your whereabouts
• Protecting important documents such as ID cards and other vital information in secured, waterproof containers
• Having an evacuation route before the hurricane hit, to include keeping a full tank of gas
• Following all instructions from authorities regarding evacuation or other safety protocols. Check radio, TV and other media outlets for emergency information
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.