Colonial Pipeline attack, hurricane season discussed at State Emergency meeting

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— The State Emergency Response Commission met Friday for updates on hurricane season, recent disruption to the Colonial Pipeline, COVID-19 vaccination rates and other emergency preparedness items.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and runs until Nov. 30, and the state is ready to respond to possible flooding and other disasters after a record-breaking 2020 season.

The 2021 season is expected to be above average but not historic like 2020, North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) meteorologist Diana Thomas stated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted 13 to 20 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 5 major hurricanes.

Thomas also reminded listeners about North Carolina’s new Know Your Zone tool, which launched last year to help people plan their evacuation routes if evacuation becomes necessary before a hurricane.

Know Your Zone

The commission also shared an update on disruption to the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which experienced a cyberattack in May, impacting a segment that runs through North Carolina.

Rich Clifton, a critical infrastructure specialist with NCEM, reviewed the incident, saying 77% of gas stations ran out of gas at the height of the incident. North Carolina was the state worst impacted by the cyberattack, Clifton said.

The commission can be proactive by ramping up its emergency planning for fuel just like it does for other supplies, such as the toilet paper shortage during the pandemic, Clifton said, adding planning also needs to include all organizations involved.

Mike Sprayberry, vice chair with NCEM, shared an update on the state’s coronavirus response and efforts to vaccinate more North Carolinians.

The state has been in active COVID-19 response for more than 490 days, Sprayberry said, and 9 million vaccines have been provided statewide. More than 4.5 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, roughly 53% of the adult population.