ELIZABETHTOWN — Sheriff Jim McVicker has confidence in the ability of his deputies and the rest of Bladen County’s emergency workers to handle whatever comes with Hurricane Florence.
But he does have concerns.
“I think this is going to be something our generation hasn’t seen,” he said Tuesday as preparations continued for the Category 4 storm’s late-week arrival. “I’ve been on the phone with the sheriff in Brunswick County. They’re going to be hit hard. We’re hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.”
Florence is expected to hit sometime on Friday, but it won’t move out of southeastern North Carolina very fast. That translates to rain and flooding, some areas east and northeast of the county facing predictions of 15-plus inches of rain.
“Please, please, stay off the road unless you need to evacuate, and let’s do it early so we don’t compromise the first responders,” McVicker said of his message to residents.
Bradley Kinlaw is the county’s Emergency Management director, and Greg Martin is the county manager. They said preparation started in earnest over the weekend.
“We’ve lined up personnel, our shelters, our logistics folks, as well as our equipment has been tested,” Kinlaw said Tuesday afternoon. “It will be moved in place tomorrow. We’ve had a great deal of communications with stakeholders, with towns, the schools, the college — we’ve been in contact since Sunday.
“That kind of brings us to our operations opening tomorrow.”
Martin said 21st century conveniences are mostly tied to electricity. Extended loss of power is among his main concerns.
“Just the implications that are associated with that,” he said. “Without electricity, it’ll be a lifestyle change. An extended period will be challenging.”
All hands will be on deck throughout the county.
“We’ve got a place to bed down here at the detention center,” McVicker said. “We’ve got enough fuel to run the detention center for at least five days. We’ve made arrangements with a diesel company to replenish that. We have an extra tank.
“We’ve made arrangements on shelters. We’ll have two deputies per school.”
Shelters open Wednesday at Bladen Lakes Primary School, East Arcadia School, East Bladen High School and West Bladen High School. The pet friendly shelter will be located at West Bladen.
“Our people will respond to help all citizens of this county until it gets so rough nobody can respond,” McVicker said. “I will be here, and my entire staff will be here until the storm is over.
“Then we’ll really get to work.”
In preparation for Florence, emergency crews checked gear, gassed up vehicles and got on high alert for the time their services were needed. Elizabethtown volunteer firefighter Josh Babson gets ready by inspecting one of the department’s chain saws.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.