Local News

State practices responding to hurricanes

Posted May 28, 2009 10:08 a.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2009 10:51 a.m. EDT

— A first-ever gathering of North Carolina emergency-management officials simulated the state's response to a hurricane Thursday.

"This is real. North Carolina can be impacted from the coast to the mountains," Gov. Bev Perdue said. "This has hit the Triangle; it's hit the mountain area, so we all have to be prepared."

The State Emergency Response Team – including Perdue, Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell and Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Reuben Young – held a four-hour exercise simulating response to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

"Every piece of state government is here getting ready. And everybody knows what their role is. I know what my role is as a brand-new governor," Perdue said.

The simulation was modeled on the landfall of North Carolina's costliest storm, Hurricane Floyd, on Sept. 16, 1999. Floyd killed 52 people and caused more than $6 billion in damage.

The team met in what would be the situation room during a disaster – the basement of the State Emergency Operations Center, 116 W. Jones St.

Officials practiced tasks including mandatory evacuations, caring for sick people and cleaning up debris. They discussed using technology, such as the Internet and GPS systems, to communicate with residents during and after storms. Perdue said she wanted better partnerships with local governments.

"It's been a tremendously important exercise, and we're ready. North Carolina's ready," Perdue said.

Budget difficulties will not affect the state's ability to respond to natural disasters, the governor said.

"North Carolina has never backed away from emergency preparedness and delivery of services," she said. "Regardless of what the budget is, we will do this, we will take care of emergency conditions. ... The state can step up and do that."

SERT most recently responded to Tropical Storm Hanna on Sept. 5, 2008.

The practice came as the first tropical depression of the season formed off the mid-Atlantic coast, four days before the start of the hurricane season on June 1.

Forecasters have predicted nine to 14 named tropical storms, including four to seven hurricanes and one to three major storms, this season. It ends Nov. 30.

Perdue has declared this Hurricane Awareness Week and urged residents to prepare for storms. Nationally, North Carolina ranks behind only Florida in vulnerability to hurricanes.

"I’ve lived on the coast for 30 years, and I’ve seen all kinds of predictions. None of us know. Whatever they say doesn’t always really come true," she said.

"You can never be prepared enough. That's why I've asked everybody in the state to get ready, because who knows what will happen this summer?"

To learn what to do before, during and after hurricanes, visit WRAL's StormTracker section.