Local governments are at work preparing for Isaias when it barrels through late Monday and early Tuesday – but are hoping the worst thing about it will be figuring how to pronounce its name.
While the storm is projected to be a category 1 hurricane when it makes landfall around Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, it is expected to be downgraded to tropical storm status when it reaches Craven County.
Still, the system will have plenty of wind – maximum sustained wind is forecast at 56 miles per hour in New Bern, 58 in Jacksonville and 51 in Kinston; and maximum sustained gusts of 71 miles per hour in New Bern, 72 in Jacksonville and 66 in Kinston. So it’s almost a given that power outages will occur.
Good or bad, both city and county spokesmen say they are prepared.
"We’ve got pretty much everybody in place," county EMS director Stanley Kite said. He added that the county is not looking at the coming storm doing anywhere near the damage that Hurricane Florence did in 2018. "We’re not asking anyone to evacuate on this one," he said. "This event, the biggest threat is going to be mostly tornadoes."
Kite said he expects storm surge along the lower Neuse in areas such as Harlowe to be 3-4 feet; in New Bern, however, he is expecting 2-3 feet. No homes will be flooded, he feels, though some local roads and parking lots may briefly become havens for ducks.
He added that the speed with which the storm will pass is a plus for residents. "Instead of it building for days, this is going to come through pretty swiftly, over night," he said, adding that by 9 a.m. the wind should shift and push any water back out to sea.
The county will be ready to open shelters at Creekside, Ben Quinn, Havelock and Farm Life Elementary – but he does not expect to need them. "We are not announcing any opening in shelters unless there is a drastic change in forecast," he said.
One of those shelters if they open – Ben Quinn – would be open to animals as well. Eileen Beeson, director of the Craven-Pamlico Animal Shelter, said dogs, cats and bunnies would be housed there while other pets and livestock would be transported to the shelter itself on Old Airport Road for the duration of the storm. "We’re set up for both locations," she said. "Last year we had one mini-horse, three goats, two pigs and three peacocks."
She noted that the animals of any person who is COVID-positive would be taken to the shelter as well. The shelter has a trailer loaded with emergency supplies, ready to convert part of Ben D. Quinn to a temporary animals shelter.
While also not expecting the storm shelters to open, Beeson said "As long as we’re in a state of emergency I’m packed and ready to sleep here. We’re as ready as we can be."
Gale force winds will hit the area at around 11 p.m. Monday, he said, with strong winds lasting through 3 or 4 a.m.
Kite said the county is asking residents to shelter in place. "If they don’t feel safe, they need to be calling some family and friends," he said. "The risk with COVID is higher than what the storm threat is to have public shelters."
Both New Bern and Craven County declared a state of emergency on Sunday – a needed step in case FEMA money is needed in the aftermath.
A few buildings have boarded up in preparation for the storm, included some windows in City Hall, according to Public Information Officer Colleen Roberts. She added that the city is bringing 100 bags of sand each for distribution at the Stanley White Recreation Center, 1225 Pinetree Drive, and at the empty lot at the corner of South Front and Craven streets. While bags are provided, anyone wanting sand to bring shovels to fill them.
"While we are preparing for all the normal hurricane effects from a storm surge," she said, "we see this being primarily a wind event which for us unfortunately is going to mean power outages."
Roberts said the city is setting up its Emergency Operations Center near the water plant on NC 55 West "sometime tonight, from which we will mitigate the storm."
Parks and Recreation Manager Foster Hughes said he expects no park closings prior to the storm, but added that those areas that tend to flood – namely Union Point Park and "the choke point" at Lawson Creek Park – will be barricaded to keep cars from going in and possibly getting caught.
Hughes added that the parks would be inspected after the storm to see if there is any damage calling for further closings while debris is cleared.
Mayor Dana Outlaw said the city is ready to tackle and outages and debris problems that turn up.
"We already have agreements in place," he said. "We have bids in place for hauling debris off." Among the preparations, he said, is making sure there are hotel rooms and food available for outside electrical and other workers who may come if needed.
He said that having such things in readiness carries some cost to the city, but is important enough to merit the expense. "If we do not have mutual aid agreements, if we do not have food and housing, those people might go to another city. If we do not have the manpower to bring our city back online, then the economic situation can be much worse," he said.
"The main thing is, when the hurricane hits, people want power restored," he added. "We have the ability to get that power restored as quickly as we can."