ELIZABETHTOWN — With its southeastern tip less than 50 miles from the Atlantic, Bladen County and hurricanes have a lengthy history.
Normally when a storm is on the way from the east, so too is help from the west.
Not this time. Not for Hurricane Florence.
This Category 4 storm is so large, predicted to move so slow and dump so much rain, assistance from western North Carolina will remain there. This time, they have to take care of their own.
“Duing Matthew, we depended on management teams, fire crews, rescue crews, swift water rescue crews — we depended on equipment, like cots and blankets and those types of things form the west to support us,” said Bradley Kinlaw, the county’s director of Emergency Mangement. “We’re just going to have to do the best we can without those things.”
Tuesday afternoon, the seven-day rainfall map linked to the storm had areas in the northwestern part of the state — such as Ashe and Alleghany counties — getting roughly 10 inches of rain. Charlotte was in the 4-6 inch range. Of the state’s 100 counties, only the southwestern-most such as Cherokee were forecast for 2 inches or less.
“We’ve had requests in, and they’re trying to build with other states,” Kinlaw said Tuesday afternoon, a day before the command operations center and shelters would open. “I don’t know. We are getting some EMS folks from somewhere in the mountains tonight. But that’s the only thing offered so far.”
The situation could have a multiplier. Shelters are expected to get some of Bladen County’s 30,000-plus residents, and there could be more.
“We’re a small county, not a lot of resources,” Kinlaw said. “Historically, we get resources from the western part of the state. And we’re not able to do that with this storm. We expect increased shelter population from Bladen County in addition to people seeking our shelters when they really need to go further inland.”
One thing that won’t change, Kinlaw said. His team will be ready, and will do all it safely can to assist anyone.
Because of Florence’s project track and slow movement, communities in the western part of the state which might normally be able to send help to Bladen County will need to stay home this time.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.