North Carolina Readies, Responds to Historic Hurricane Florence

Group of employees in EOC Conference Room
Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 4:57pm

Hurricane Florence will be remembered as one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the state of North Carolina.  The monster storm battered the North Carolina coast, trailing inland, leaving a path of destruction throughout eastern coastal regions.  Thirty-seven people have died as the result of Hurricane Florence.  But before the massive storm even hit, North Carolina emergency officials were preparing for what meteorologists have called the second “500-year storm” to hit the state since Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  

Under the leadership of Governor Roy Cooper, the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) under NC Emergency Management led response and recovery efforts to prepare and protect citizens in Hurricane Florence’s path. SERT is comprised of numerous state agencies, non-profit relief organizations, faith-based organizations and some private sector companies, such as the utilities and cell-phone providers.   

“This storm is one of monumental proportion, and North Carolina is ready,” said the governor at a morning press briefing.  

As meteorologists projected the storm’s path, the state’s Emergency Operations Center was activated to a level one, the highest operations response level that can be declared.   
“When a storm of this magnitude is eminent, the critical plan for a response must be implemented quickly in order to save lives,” said Erik A. Hooks, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. “We are prepared to meet that challenge.” 

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) is one of the agencies that is part of SERT. Within NCDPS are the following: Emergency Management, State Highway Patrol, the NC National Guard, Prisons, Community Corrections and others. 

NCSHP troopers provided detour assistance to motorists traveling on major roadways that were closed due to flooding. Troopers have also been working to assist local municipalities in need of assistance with road closures, detours, traffic direction and patrols. 

Gov. Cooper activated more than 2,800 National Guard soldiers to preserve life and safety, provide route clearance of roads and support communications and logistics. NCNG soldiers were involved in a number of rescues, evacuations and transporting of survivors.

Employees with the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice evacuated more than 3,000 offenders in two days, accepted offenders from county jails into state prison facilities, provided transportation for National Guard troops and provided security at shelters.  

Probation and parole officers were deployed to Wilmington to provide emergency protective measures to include crowd control, safety of volunteers and protection of equipment. They also provided law enforcement assistance in Lumberton and Columbus County, worked shelters in Chapel Hill and Washington, as well as provided security at the storm commodity distribution center in Raleigh.

The Correction Enterprises Bunn Sign Plant team worked overtime to produce more than 3,000 flood warning and hazard signs for NC Department of Transportation’s use in flooded areas during and after Hurricane Florence’s arrival.

Getting accurate information out to the public in a timely manner was paramount to the success of the overall emergency response efforts.  That’s why members of the NC DPS Communications Office worked around the clock to distribute critical messaging through media and community partners.  In collaboration with the governor’s press office and public information officers from other state divisions, the staffers from the Communications Office manned the Joint Information Center (JIC); coordinating daily press briefings, answering media and citizen calls relating to the storm, writing press releases, monitoring and delivering social media messages and storm related events throughout the state.

While many DPS units worked on the front line of hurricane response efforts, other divisions, including the NC DPS Fiscal and Budget offices, offered administrative support.

The collaborative response to Hurricane Florence served as proof that the state stands ready to serve, even in the most catastrophic circumstances.  With confidence, Governor Cooper assures the citizens of North Carolina, that the state is committed to caring for every person affected by the hurricane.

“Please know, we will not give up on you,” said Governor Cooper.

Sonja Bennett-Bellamy