Local News

North Carolina Braces, Plans For Hurricane Season

Posted June 1, 2001

— Hurricane season officially starts Friday, and after suffering some major battering from storms, cuts in disaster aid is not something North Carolina officials want to hear.

Thursday, Joe Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told WRAL's Pam Saulsby that he is not overly concerned about President Bush's proposed cuts to the FEMA budget.

"Let me put everyone's mind to rest," Allbaugh says. "There are not going to be any cuts in any disaster aid. People should just put that totally out of their minds. I'm not sure where those reports come from. I think it may come from some budget proposals that are based on estimated savings."

Allbaugh says the bottom line is no one should expect any radical changes in disaster response if another hurricane should strike.

Emergency managers say they need to do a better job of sounding the flood warning when major storms slam into North Carolina. A group of are people working to get the word out faster, clearer, and more acurately when the waters rise.

While many forecasters were on the mark for Hurricane Floyd, no one really knew the flood forecast. Inland flooding killed 48 North Carolinians. Congressman Bob Etheridge says numbers like that spell out a need for change.

"I think the more information, the more data, the more understanding people have of the danger that they face, is the more likelihood they'll move," says Etheridge, D-Lillington.

Moving more people, faster, in the face of storm related flooding is the idea behind a bill Etheridge is backing.

The bill would bring federal dollars to North Carolina to link meteorologists, and emergency managers. The link is intended to get the word out faster and more clearly.

"You'll have maps, you'll have staff gauges. You'll have pictures of the river at the sight with reference points so that when you hear river at Rocky Mount is 20 feet, this is what it means," says Steve Harned of the National Weather Service.

If the legislation passes one goal is a flood rating system.

Like the current hurricane warning system, one idea is to rate flooding in easy to understand categories so you know what is coming.

"Many of the deaths were because people were driving their cars on roads that had about a foot of water. This will tell you roads, land, buildings that will be under water," says John Dorman, of N.C. Surveying and Mapping.

Many of the flood warning ideas are already in the works. If it goes through, the money from Uncle Sam would be the glue that holds all the ideas together.

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