LUMBERTON — It will be Tuesday before Robeson County feels Hurricane Irma’s touch, if the county is touched at all, according to the county’s Emergency Services director.
“Right now we are still watching and waiting,” Stephanie Chavis said.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center placed what it is calling a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane about 130 miles east of the Caribbean island of Antigua and moving west at about 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The government of the Dominican Republic issued a hurricane warning along the north coast of the Dominican Republic from the border with Haiti eastward to Cabo Engano. A tropical storm warning was issued for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engano west to the southern border with Haiti.
The Robeson County Emergency Services office is receiving regular emails about the storm’s status and location from the state Emergency Management Office and the National Weather Service, Chavis said. According to the latest update received, Robeson County will be affected by Hurricane Irma whether the storm hits to the west or east of Florida. The county could get wind and rain or wind, rain and tornadoes.
In the meantime, county Emergency Services personnel are inventorying equipment and making sure it is ready to respond to whatever Irma-generated weather hits Robeson County, Chavis said. They’ll start “really gearing up” during the weekend, she said.
“We’re checking all our equipment,” County Manager Ricky Harris said.
County personnel are checking generators, backup batteries, water tanks, fuel supplies and other equipment to make sure they are ready in case they are needed, he said.
“We’ll probably, by Thursday, start having conference calls with the state Emergency Management Office and the National Weather Service,” Chavis said. “Then we will have better idea what to expect.”
Chavis will be going to Facebook to spread information about how to prepare for bad weather. She also will be posting instructions about how to register people with special needs on the county website. This information lets emergency personnel know who in the county has special needs, what those needs are and where these people live. Having this information helps emergency personnel be better prepared to assist people with special needs should the need arise.
Chavis also will post information about the county’s CodeRED program and how to register for it. The CodeRED system allows Robeson County residents to receive emergency notifications. The system sends notifications about emergency situations, such as storms and floods, to private telephones. Go to www.co.robeson.nc.us or call the Robeson County Emergency Management Office at 910-671-3150 to register.
City Manager Wayne Horne said city officials are watching as well, but he believes that potential flooding around Interstate 95 and N.C. 211 would be mitigated because Matthew flushed out sand that had been clogging some culverts. He said the city is seeking Golden LEAF money to help with the clearing of canals and ditches that struggled to handle the amount of water Matthew delivered.
He pointed out also that the Lumber River is now about 7 feet, and was at 13 feet, which is flood stage, when Matthew hit.
Other people in Irma’s projected path also are getting prepared, according to Associated Press reports.
People in the Florida Keys are putting up hurricane shutters and wooden boards on homes and businesses as Hurricane Irma approaches the Caribbean on a path that could take it to the United States by the weekend. Trucks are hauling away boats and people are packing in preparation for leaving. Houses in the Keys stand at sea level, with parts of the main road to the Florida mainland going dangerously low.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered the suspension of road tolls across the state as Hurricane Irma continues its ominous move toward the region.
Some small Caribbean islands are bracing for a big hit from Hurricane Irma, according to the AP. Forecasters say those in the path of the storm include tiny Anguilla and the islands of Barbuda and Anegada. All will be near or directly in Irma’s path.
Authorities are expecting the eye of Irma to pass directly over Anguilla early today.
Anguilla is expecting the full force of the storm, said Melissa Meade, Disaster Management agency director. They also expect storm surge and flooding.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974. The Associated Press contributed to this report.