Durham, Raleigh leaders work remotely to manage Isaias response during COVID-19

Posted August 3, 2020 12:50 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2020 2:47 p.m. EDT

— For the first time ever, emergency operations centers in Durham and in Raleigh will work virtually to respond to severe weather.

"Our emergency operations center is still activated virtually for COVID response," said Leslie O'Connor, chief emergency manager for the City and County of Durham. "This seamlessly ties in for us to be able to do those hurricane preparations."

Durham's usual group of 30 will not meet in person to coordinate response efforts in the case of flooding, downed trees or other issues. Those who are working remotely are already set up with battery and generator backup power.

"This will be a really great test of our new virtual process, to see if this works for us or not," O'Connor said.

On Monday, Durham crews were already putting down sand bags at the door of the Walltown Recreation Center on West Club Boulevard. Workers said they will do the same in other parks in an effort to prevent any flooding from Isaias.

Additionally, Parks and Recreation staff will visit all Durham's parks to check for any loose objects that could become projectiles in high winds.

Robert Jennings, Parks Superintendent for the City of Durham, said although his staffing is lower than normal due to coronavirus, the city is ready for the storm.

"We are prepared for it," Jennings said. "We saw this one coming. And fortunately, because of that, we know what we need to do and our crews are well prepared for it."

Tuesday will be busier than Monday, officials said, because they'll go around to clean up debris after Isaias moves through the area.

No matter the intensity of the impact, Tropical Storm Isaias will help Durham prepare for future storms.

"The biggest thing I want for Durham County residents to think about is this is the first named storm that’s going to be really affecting us and it’s Aug. 3. Even if we don’t get major damage as a result of this storm, any preparation activity that you do now can be utilized through all of hurricane season. Take it seriously, and if it needs to be used as a test run, use it that way," O'Connor said.

Isaias is expected to reach hurricane strength before it makes landfall near Myrtle Beach at 9 p.m. Monday. The Triangle will feel impacts starting at midnight through noon on Tuesday.

Wind gusts above 70 mph and heavy rain will be possible from Raleigh eastward.

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