RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley has activated 245 members of the National Guard to be deployed at armories in the western and piedmont areas of the state in advance of Hurricane Ivan's approach into North Carolina.
"Our early preparation, the hard work of emergency responders and officials at all levels of government, and the cooperation of the residents who heeded the warnings and got out of harm's way helped to save lives during Frances," said Easley. "We must continue our vigilance during Ivan.
"The State Emergency Response Team has water, ice, meals, sandbags, cots and generators ready to go when needed. Moreover, our volunteer organization partners, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Baptist Men's Club, are ready to assist with shelters, feeding operations and other human services as well."
The National Guard will be equipped with helicopters and high-clearance vehicles. Nearly 144 additional Highway Patrol troopers are prepared to head west to provide additional support for traffic operations. Another 900 troopers are on stand-by.
The state's Urban Search and Rescue and Swift Water Rescue Teams are spread throughout the western counties and some are located in the Piedmont as well.
About 50 roads remain closed in the western part of the state due to Tropical Depression Frances. Crews from the Department of Transportation are working in the worst damaged areas between Boone and Asheville to clear debris from around bridges and culverts to allow water to flow and to prevent further damage. DOT also has barricades, pipes and portable message signs ready in case they are needed.
The N.C. Division of Forest Resources will dispatch a 25-member team to the N.C. Emergency Management Western Branch Office in Conover to assist counties with various duties on Thursday. On Friday, another 25-member team will be sent to the N.C. Emergency Management Central Branch Office in Butner.
Also, during the past few weeks, inspectors from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been checking dams and meeting with owners and operators to reduce the risk of dam breaches and failures.
The state emergency bilingual hotline was activated and will continue around-the-clock operations throughout the storm's duration. The hotline will provide updated weather information, highway closings, shelter information, feeding sites and will also serve as a referral line for people in need of help following the event.
English and Spanish speaking people should call toll-free (888) 835-9966; deaf and hard of hearing people should call (877) 877-1765.
Emergency Management officials anticipate that Ivan may dump as much as a foot of water, or more, in the mountains. About six inches of rain is expected in the western Piedmont -- north and west of Charlotte.
Because the ground is saturated as a result of flooding from Frances, officials expect more landslides, toppled trees, property damage and loss of infrastructure such as roads, power and water supplies.
People in low-lying areas that flood regularly must move to higher ground and heed the warning of local officials when they order evacuations. Citizens are being warned not to camp, hike or kayak in the mountains.
The storm prompted the state to close 11 parks and campgrounds in the mountains until further notice.
Western Carolina University canceled classes in all locations for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
In Gaston County, high schools moved games up from Friday to Thursday night to avoid rainouts, while other events -- such as Lincoln County's annual Apple Festival -- canceled.
The storm could also spawn tornados anywhere in the state, but the threat is greatest from Raleigh west.
Help for western North Carolina flood victims is now available at FEMA's new center located in Clyde Town Hall in Haywood County.
The center will be open seven days a week to help those hit with flooding from Hurricane Frances. It will also handle any potential fallout from Ivan. A second disaster recovery center will open at a local fire department Thursday. Anyone with questions or needing assistance can call FEMA at (800) 621-3362.