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County prepares ahead of massive storm

Several officials from various organization in Charlotte County met Monday to discuss the possible effects of Hurricane Florence and how the county would prepare ahead of the storm.

“This hurricane has the potential to be severe like “Isabel” was in 2003,” said Charlotte County’s Director of Emergency Services (DES) Garland H. Hamlett, Jr. “ VDEM (Virginia Department of Emergency Services) and NWS (National Weather Service) said citizens need to be prepared and be ready and ‘to take this hurricane very serious’ …”

He said the seriousness of the storm was emphasized several times during recent teleconference calls.

According to the National Weather Service, “hurricanes are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena. On average, 12 tropical storms, 6 of which become hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year.”

During the meeting, Hamlett said the county is just pre-planning. He said by pre-planning, problems can be prevented if something was to actually occur.

“If we have to shelter, the shelter will be at the community college,” said Hamlett, referencing the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville.

The shelter would also be a no pet shelter, but certified service dogs would be welcome.

Roller said school buses would be available to transport individuals to the shelter at the community college if needed, and the local fire departments would serve as pickup locations for the buses.

During the meeting, individuals who require oxygen and home dialysis were a concern in the event of a power outage.

“This is a time when neighbors need to look after neighbors,” said Hamlett. “We’ve gotta help each other out.”

Charlotte Court House Fire Chief Chris Russell said individuals with special needs should have a backup plan in the event of an emergency and get any additional oxygen tanks or generators that may be required ahead of time.

Virginia Department of Transportation Representative Jeff Gooden said dispatching would be scarce once the winds reach high speeds and individuals should stay off the roads as much as possible.

“We want everyone to be safe …” he said.

Gooden said VDOT would try to make sure primary and main roads are clear.

Hamlett said if water is needed, the fire stations are also supposed to open to provide water.

“Like anything in life you need to be prepared …” he said.

Hamlett said resources can be requested by the County from the State of Virginia, but their requests would need to be specific.

He said during the event of an emergency, if the winds are high, leave the trees. Do not self-dispatch.

“That’s a critical item that needs to be dealt with because we don’t want anybody hurt …” Hamlett said.

He also said the 911 center should be limited to emergencies only in an effort to limit tying up the 911 lines and first responders.

He also said the first responders put themselves in harm’s way when responding to calls.

“If the wind does get up above 60 mph, we will not be toning (alerting) out anybody to respond,” said Charlotte County’s 911 Coordinator Lisa Myers.

“If we decide that we’re going to close the facilities in the county, we’ll make that decision based on what the weather is at the time and the anticipated weather …” Hamlett said.

Social Services Director Sari Goff said her organization usually tries to check on the nursing homes in the event of catastrophic weather and individuals in the county.

“Before, we’ve had several different plans …” she said.

However, Goff said her organization has already purchased canned goods for those who may be without electricity.

She said water would also be purchased in case it needed to be handed out.

A public service announcement from Hamlett said all citizens should make sure to have at least three days worth of drinking water, flashlights and extra batteries.

He said it would also be good to make sure food is available, medication and toiletries and a few clothes that can be taken if necessary.

“That’s the worst case scenario, but it may be a reality issue for those folks who live along the coastal areas in Virginia,” Hamlett said.

In addition, Hamlett warned citizens to not attempt to drive through streams of water in a vehicle or walk through on foot.

“Please inform your families, friends, and neighbors of the seriousness of this tropical storm,” he said. “Also, keep in mind emergency services personnel will be responding to dispatch calls in the event of an emergency. The 911 center will dispatch and provide updates as they are received from the DES and the Emergency Services Coordinator (ESC) to the emergency responders.”

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department Representative Royal Freeman said the department would also be ready to assist in any way.

“Over a typical two-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, one of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater),” said the National Weather Service.

In addition, Southside Soil and Water Conservation District Representative Julie Hamlett said the county currently has 12 flood control dams.

She said the organization will have to check and monitor the dams when it starts raining.

Please visit TheCharlotteGazette.com for storm updates as they become available. Send us your news tips and photos at stormreport@TheCharlotteGazette.com.