While many people living on the North Carolina coast have evacuated the area, members of the McDowell Incident Management Team headed straight into the danger zone of Hurricane Dorian.
At the request of NC Emergency Management, part of McDowell’s Incident Management Team was deployed to Bladen County, according to McDowell Emergency Services Director William Kehler. Along with Kehler, are Craig Walker, Steve Hancock, Angie Wright and Sam Robinson.
“McDowell's Incident Management Team is assisting Bladen officials with planning, operations, logistics, and situational awareness,” said Kehler.
Kehler was deployed to the same area during Hurricane Matthew three years ago. McDowell crews also assisted last year during Hurricane Florence, and were dispatched to Duplin, Columbus and Pender counties.
"Shortly after we assisted Bladen during Hurricane Matthew, they sent emergency personnel to assist us and Rutherford County during the 2016 wildfires,” Kehler told The McDowell News by email on Wednesday. “We work really well with the Bladen officials, and having already served here during a prior deployment, allows us an edge on startup processes, as it pertains to incident management."
On Wednesday, emergency officials were awaiting the calm before the storm, but Thursday morning, the NC coast was getting hammered by Dorian, including many reports of tornadoes touching down and destroying property.
Kehler said Thursday morning they had three tornado warnings in their area since 6 a.m. He said they will stay in Bladen County for as long as they are needed to assist.
“It will depend on the extent of impacts and damage that occurs,” he said.
At 8 a.m. on Thursday, Hurricane Dorian was located approximately 170 miles southwest of Wilmington moving at a speed of 8 mph with max sustained winds at 115 mph. Significant impacts from life-threatening storm surge, heavy rain and strong winds will continue through Friday, according to information from the Department of Public Safety’s website.
Gov. Roy Cooper requested a federal disaster declaration that was approved to help speed federal preparation, response and recovery aid.
Hurricane Dorian remained on track to arrive on the coast early Thursday morning with heavy rain. Sustained winds may reach 80 mph east of I-95 and forecasts call for some hurricane-force wind gusts.
Waves up to seven feet above normally dry land and isolated tornadoes are possible across eastern North Carolina through Thursday night. A flash flood watch is in effect in parts of central and all of eastern North Carolina through Friday. Shelters are opening to accommodate evacuees. A large state shelter opened in Durham last night. More than two dozen counties have declared states of emergency.
The state medical examiner’s office recorded the first storm-related fatality this week in North Carolina. An 85-year-old Columbus County man died Monday when he fell off a ladder while preparing his house for the storm.
To help with storm response, nearly 400 North Carolina National Guard soldiers are positioned in armories across the state and water rescue teams deployed to staging areas closer to the coast.
The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund is now accepting contributions for Hurricane Dorian damage. Contributions help with the unmet needs of hurricane victims.