What to expect from Hurricane Isaias in Wilmington

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Need for preparedness builds as the storm approaches the region

Local emergency management agencies are warily watching Hurricane Isaias, and they are asking that you do the same.

Many of these departments have been working on issues related to COVID-19 for months. And now, there’s also a possibility of a dangerous storm, which could impact the area by late Sunday.

Thinking about shelters and evacuation plans in the midst of a pandemic isn’t ideal.

“It adds a layer of stress,” said Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Ed Conrow.

People can help, though, by making sure they are prepared — no matter what Isaias may or may not bring. Conrow said that many people don’t understand the department’s decision making process.

“We want people to be safe before the onset of bad conditions,” Conrow said.

If that is predicted for Southeastern North Carolina, their team has to make plans at least 12 hours in advance to give people time to do what needs to be done.

Conrow said that Saturday morning will likely be the time his office begins to make some of those decisions. As a result, he is urging people to make their plans and preparations now.

“At this time the shelters, for example, are not an ideal place to be,” he said. “The more people can make their own plans, they are helping us.”

It’s something that New Hanover County is encouraging, too.

“And we really want people to take COVID-19 into consideration as they make their plans,” said Jessica Loeper, the county’s chief communications officer. “Include supplies in your kit that help you stay safe and healthy. Make a plan to go inland if you feel unsafe in your current location.”

In the meantime, Brunswick County is getting push packs, with prepacked cots, and bottled water ready should they be needed.

In Pender County, the Emergency Operations Center had not been activated as of Friday morning, said Tammy Proctor, public information officer, but they are monitoring the storm.

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In addition to shelter and evacuation plans, emergency management officials are also looking at the potential for damaging wind, storm surge and rain.

During such storms, flooding is always a concern, Proctor said. Those who’ve experienced problems in the past may want to be extra cautious about Hurricane Isaias, although there is hope.

“The good news we are hearing is that, right now, they are only predicting three or four inches of rain,” Conrow said.

As of Friday, the National Weather Service shows that some flooding is possible, especially the near coast, but that the storm’s fast movement should limit that potential.

Loeper added that one of the current concerns is wind.

“But any subtle change to the track can change that forecast and change our potential flood impacts,” she said. “That is why it is so important for people to be prepared and have a plan in the event that evacuation from flood-prone areas is needed. Much of this will be dependent on the final track.”

Proctor said her sense is that residents are being proactive and watching the weather updates.

“This is a good time to take stock of supplies needed in an emergency kit –water, batteries, a flashlight, bug spray, and non-perishable items,” she said.

And keep in mind that even Category 1 storms can be dangerous.

“Florence was a Cat 1,” said Proctor about the 2018 storm that dumped more than 20 inches of rain, damaged homes and temporarily flooded most roads into Wilmington. “Don’t let the storm category lull you into non-action. Be alert. Be proactive.”