Gov. Roy Cooper stopped in Lenoir County Wednesday to tour the emergency management operations center to thank the men and women who are trying to put in the logistics to make the state safe during Hurricane Florence’s threat.
Cooper said we were only hours away from the arrival of the hurricane that may have the potential to devastate coastal areas and Eastern North Carolina. Shelters began opening across the state and emergency personnel were trying to make sure first responders d had equipment in key areas to respond quickly.
“We want to continue sending a message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out,” Cooper said. “When you are looking at a storm surge of this magnitude where the national weather services has said that the damage is going to be unbelievable and that they cannot emphasize it enough, we know that’s enough that we should look at it closely with our local and federal partners.”
Cooper also toured the staging area for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency’s) at the Global TransPark that has supplies and equipment being distributed throughout the state and will be needed locally as well, he said.
“This storm is so intense we are doing things a little bit differently in that we’re distributing those supplies and equipment before the storm instead of after it because we know it’s going to be pretty difficult to get everywhere we need to be after the storm,” Cooper said. “But we are ready for our recovery and response and we’re waiting for the storm to get here.”
Cooper said hopefully Florence will have less of an impact than possible.
“But we’re going to hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said.
Cooper said he has talked to governors from all over the U.S. and they are stepping up, sending North Carolina equipment and personnel that is needed. North Carolina has helped them in the past, he said.
“We are grateful to other states that are sending equipment and personnel to help us, swiftwater rescue teams, helicopters, equipment we need in our rescue and recovery efforts,” he said.
Cooper was brief by the emergency personnel on the rainfall forecasted and the likelly flooding that will come from the Neuse River, he said.
One of the positive things that has been learned from past hurricanes, including Matthew, Cooper said, is weather modeling of how a storm comes into the state and what areas are likely to be flooded. Already law enforcement here is using that information to barricade roads to warn people of possible flooding, he said.
“We want to make sure that people are out of harm's way because we don’t want to endanger the lives of first responders,” he said. “We’re telling people who are ignoring evacuation orders that not only are you putting your own life at rise, you’re putting the lives of first responders at risk and that’s not right.”
Cooper said he also realized farmers were going to be badly affected by the hurricane and ordered and emergency declaration early to waive time and weight restrictions on farm trucks because farmers have a lot of crops in the fields from tobacco to melons and needed to get their crops harvested.
Last week a lot of crops were harvested, he said.
“We know a lot of crops were lost in the field during Hurricane Matthew,” Cooper said. “I think this was the lesson that was learned and because of the early emergency declaration farmers have been able to a lot of those crops.
“Clearly this storm is going to have an economic impact,” he said. “We don’t know how much. But right now we are worried about the security and safety of people. We don’t want to lose one North Carolina life in this storm.”