DOBSON — A state of emergency has been declared, and officials are preparing for the worst, as a category 3 hurricane looms off the coast.
Surry County EMS Director John Shelton said on Wednesday it’s too early to tell what path Hurricane Matthew will take, but in the business of emergency management one always plans for the worst.
The county has two grant-funded pieces of equipment on standby to deploy to the coast, and two county personnel will head east to help manage the response to the storm. The vehicles are a companion animal mobile shelter, used to safely house pets, and a vehicle transporting a large generator.
As of early Wednesday, the vehicles were set to head to the coast on Thursday morning. However, Shelton said things are always changing when it comes to managing the response to a natural disaster. They were placed on standby to deploy later Wednesday morning.
“These vehicles are grant-funded,” explained Shelton. “They must be ready to respond at a moment’s notice.”
Additionally, an ambulance crew is on standby to deploy, said Shelton, should the needs in another county outweigh what that county’s EMS department can handle.
Of course, Shelton said he can’t set aside the needs Surry County could have as a result of the storm.
“We are told we could expect to see heavy rainfall and some high winds,” said Shelton, though he noted nobody will know until it’s determined how far inland the storm will travel.
“We are maintaining our resources here too.”
Some of those resources include generators for residents who require in-home medical treatment, as Shelton noted power outages are always a possibility in such a storm.
The forestry department and fire departments throughout the county will also be prepared to aid should trees fall in roadways, according to Shelton. Under a state of emergency the N.C. National Guard is also an available resource the county could tap.
Shelton said residents can take a few steps to ensure they weather the storm. Any outdoor furniture or structures which could be blown around by high winds should be secured.
He noted when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989 the county saw winds in excess of 100 m.p.h., and nobody can be sure what Matthew will bring. Storms such as Matthew can also spur tornadoes inland.
“All things are possible,” remarked Shelton.
The EMS director said residents should maintain food and water supplies capable of sustaining their families for at least 72 hours. First aid kits and other supplies should be checked prior to the area feeling any of the effects of Matthew.
“The impact is lessening so far,” said Shelton late Wednesday morning. “It seems to be a little further off the coast (than what was expected).”
That stated, Shelton said it’s easy to scale down a response should it not be necessary. However, emergency management personnel simply can’t be caught on their heels should the worst of scenarios unfold.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.