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Emergency team: Prepare, be cautious, help neighbors

Henderson County’s emergency management team had three major messages as agencies prepared for up to 15 inches of rain this weekend when the Florence reaches the mountains as a tropical cyclone:

  • Prepare now, with supplies such as water, medicine, batteries and food.
  • Keep neighbors in need in mind.
  • Use common sense and don’t take risks — like driving around barricades into floodwaters.


“The good news is it’s been downgraded,” County Manager Steve Wyatt said as he opened a 30-minute briefing about storm preparations on Friday morning. “Bad news it does not know where it wants to go and it’s taking its time getting there.”
Here are highlights of the briefing:

Landslides likely

The latest forecast shows the remnants moving west toward Greenville, South Carolina, and reaching Western North Carolina as a tropical cyclone and depression.
“The initial forecast is for 5-10 inches of rain and there are some areas that could see 15 inches, (particularly) around the Blue Ridge Escarpment” — the eastern downhill side of the mountains. “That’s going to increase the likelihood of flash flooding," Emergency Management Director Jimmy Brissie said. "We will see flash flooding and we will see some landslides, especially in areas where we’ve seen them before. So if you live in those areas be very aware of your surroundings.” Parts of Edneyville, Bat Cave and Gerton are subject to the heaviest rain.
First signs of the tropical system could come this afternoon with clouds, followed by rain on Saturday with the heaviest rain on Sunday into Monday.
The county Emergency Operations Center will be activated at 8 a.m. Saturday and will remain open 24 hours a day until the threat is past. Reach the EOC at 697-4728. People can also go to or call 211, a clearinghouse for services.
“Rest assured, all fire departments, all law enforcement agencies stand ready to assist along with our private industry partners” including Duke Energy, hospitals and other agencies, he said.
Brissie and other officials urged people to prepare now for the storm and to be cognizant of their elderly or homebound neighbors and people with special needs.
“The first 72 hours is on you,” he said. “As the manager said the other day, we’ve got 120,000 neighbors.”

Prepare for worst 

“We need to be prepared for the worst, hopefully that’s not going to happen,” Sheriff Charlie McDonald said. “The more we prepare for the worst case scenario, we’ll be better prepared to take care of ourselves and our neighbors. We do want to be our brother’s keeper. …Refrain from calling 911 for anything except for absolute emergencies. The system can be overtaxed very quickly.”
McDonald said motorists who drive around barriers and into floodwaters endanger themselves and the rescuers who save them.
“Every year people are swept way,” he said. “It does not take a lot of water to wash a vehicle from the roadway. We’ve lost people in years past. Please think about first responders who have to respond to accidents that could have been prevented.”

Pregnant evacuee visit Park Ridge

Jimm Bunch, president and CEO of Park Ridge Health, said the hospital because of its proximity had already seen three pregnant women who had evacuated from the coast.
“That’s one of the areas we’re going to be staffing and overstaffing,” he said. “We’ll add staffers and they’ll be called in as needed. All our physicians are on call in various specialties. If you need us, we’ll be there.”

Virtual health care is free

Pardee President and CEO Jay Kirby noted that the hospital had gassed up all seven generators and “amped up” staffing in advance of the storm.
“If you have a need during this time, urgent care will be there, our emergency department will be there,” he said. In addition, Pardee UNC Health Care has waived the fee for its virtual care services, a service that usually costs $49. (see below for details). “You can talk to a physician on your tablet, your computer or your phone. During this hurricane that visit will be free.”

‘We err on side of safety’

The county school system is moving buses to space places — away from trees or other objects that may come down on them — monitoring the weather and deploying teams to check out roads and inspect school buildings.
“Just like any inclement weather situation we’re always going to err on the side of safety,” he said.

Duke lowers Lake Summit water

Duke Energy reported 340,000 customers on the coast without power by 11 a.m. The utility has staged 20,000 crew members to restore power as soon as conditions allow. “In Duke Energey’s mountain zone we’re expecting to begin seeing effects on Saturday afternoon,” said community relations manager Craig DeBrew. “To put it simply, we’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” Duke has drawn down the water level at Lake Summit by 7 feet.

Other updates

As western North Carolina prepares for the potential effects of Hurricane Florence, United Way of Henderson County also reminds residents to use 2-1-1 to find local resources that will help them deal with the storm’s impact.and aftermath.
People who need help can dial 2-1-1, or 888-892-1162, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for information about local resources. In case of a life-threatening emergency, however, callers should dial 911. The free, confidential service connects people to essential health and human services and is open and ready to provide local information about shelters, food and water, housing, disaster assistance, health resources and other needs throughout and after the storm.
NC 211 call specialists across North Carolina will continue to offer residents in all corners of the state the most up-to-date information about storm resources in their area. This service will not only be important during rescue and relief efforts, but will also be needed in an extended period of recovery and rebuilding. The service is also available via text by texting Florence to 898211. Users may opt to receive updates.
The NC Department of Public Safety and North Carolina Emergency Management also encourage residents to download the ReadyNC mobile app, an all-in-one tool to help people get ready for everything from traffic jams to hurricanes to ice storms. The app gives information on real-time traffic and weather conditions, river levels, evacuations, power outages and nearby shelters.

Virtual care

In addition to their customary emergency response plan and protocol, Pardee UNC Health Care announced today that UNC Health Care will waive fees associated with its virtual care service, UNC Urgent Care 24/7, in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. This service from UNC Health Care provides patients with real-time access to physicians via phone, tablet or computer. Virtual visit fees for the service will be waived for care beginning at 12:00 a.m. Friday, September 14th through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16th. Patients must be physically located in North Carolina during their virtual visit as required by medical licensing regulations.  The service typically costs $49 or less per visit, depending on patients’ insurance, and offers simple, convenient care from anywhere in North Carolina for non-emergency medical issues. Appropriate conditions include allergies, coughs, fever, headaches, nausea, insect bites, pink eye, sore throat, rash, vomiting and more. 
Pardee activated its emergency operation plan (EOP) on Tuesday, Sept. 11 and has been in communication with state, county and local officials daily. In addition to staffing plans to address increased patient volumes, Pardee reports having essential supplies, medications, food and water to self-sustain operations for an extended period of time. “While the hospital prepares everyday for unexpected events and patient volumes, we recognize that Hurricane Florence is a serious storm and our community will likely need our services in the coming days,” said Jay Kirby, president and CEO of Pardee UNC Health Care. “We are prepared and our team is ready.” 
Pardee officials will continue to monitor the situation and provide ongoing updates via Facebook and Twitter.