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Calabash Hurricane Preparedness 2021

Hurricane season is here again.  As a North Carolina coastal community, the Town of Calabash feels that it is very important that its citizens be aware of the possibility that we could be impacted by coastal storms ranging in strength from a nor’easter to a major hurricane.  These storms may have intense rainfall, very strong damaging winds, and severe flooding causing damage to homes and property.

The hurricane season each year lasts from June 1 through November 30.  Last year the Atlantic Basin experienced a record breaking year regarding number and severity of storms.  This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts that a neutral El Nino, combined with the possibility of La Nina (later in the summer) and above average water temperatures, will lead to an above average hurricane season.  Forecasters are predicting the likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

What do you need to do to be prepared?

  1. Pay attention to weather forecasts. With hurricanes, you have some time prior to landfall to prepare for impending storm impacts.  Many times, these storms are tracked for days and forecasters will give ideas where the storm may hit and what impacts to expect.
  2. Determine your vulnerability to storm impacts such as wind, flooding, and storm surge. Do you live near the waterfront?  Do you live near rivers or drainage canals? Will your home withstand forecast wind or flooding impacts?  What can you do to mitigate your vulnerability?
  3. Have an evacuation plan and a communication plan. Do you know the local evacuation routes?  Where should you evacuate to in order to get out of the path of the storm?  When should you evacuate? How will you get in touch with relatives to let them know you are safe?
  4. Have an emergency supply kit. Are you prepared for prolonged power outages?  Do you have enough food and water to last until help arrives? Don’t wait until the storm is imminent to put this together.
  5. Have sufficient insurance coverage. Make arrangements to meet with your insurance company representative to discuss your coverages and to determine if you are covered for all storm impacts.

Prior to a hurricane you can expect periods of heavy rain with winds building.  During a hurricane you can expect high winds and extremely heavy rainfall.  Trees will come down, roads will be flooded, and it will probably be impossible for police, fire and rescue personnel to respond.  Power lines will come down and power will be out to extensive areas.  After a hurricane, depending upon how extensive an area is affected, you can expect prolonged (for weeks) power outages, flooded areas, limited transportation access, debris everywhere, and limited businesses to purchase gasoline and supplies.

A lot of people have moved to this area with little knowledge of the geographic or climatic conditions that may exist after a hurricane.  This is the southeastern coastal plain of North Carolina.  The land is flat and swampy.  The area is prone to flooding, especially with 15 to 20 inches of rainfall from severe coastal storms or hurricanes.  When the major river systems make flood stage, there is no place for creeks, ditches or canals to drain into and the water backs up.  Flooding will happen, and there is not any amount of ditch work or flood control work that will stop it.  Also, as more development occurs, there is less pervious surface to absorb rainfall, meaning that there will be more surface runoff contributing to the flooding.  It may take weeks or months to get back to normal.

What about emergency shelters?  If you do not feel safe in your home you may want to consider sheltering at one of the shelters that will be opened by Brunswick County.  The closest to us will be West Brunswick High School and it is pet friendly.  However, during major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher), the shelters may not be rated for the extremely high winds and will not be open because everyone is expected to evacuate.

Many people want to know if and when they should evacuate.  The Town may issue statements with wording such as “recommended evacuation of low lying areas”, or “mandatory evacuation”.  These are very important and citizens should take notice.  However, you do not have to wait on the Town to tell you to evacuate.  If you pay attention to the weather, and know your vulnerabilities, you can evacuate when you feel the need, and each individual should be able to make this call.  Many times if you wait you may encounter very heavy traffic, and low lying evacuation routes can become flooded.  You should also know where the storm is headed and plan your evacuation to move away from the impact area.  You should plan to stay away until it is safe to return, and you should understand that if the area is hit severely enough, it may be hard to get clearance to return for some time.

If you decide not to evacuate, please understand that emergency responders may not be able to respond to emergencies during the peak of the storm.

Website Resources:

FEMA Federal Emergency Management                https://www.ready.gov/

National Hurricane Center                                           http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/outreach/

NCDOT NC Evacuation Routes https://www.ncdot.gov/travel-maps/maps/Pages/evacuation-routes.aspx

SCDOT  SC Evacuation Routes https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=eea77264247b41669486b8f63bdf2937

NC Department of Public Safety         https://www.ncdps.gov/ncem

Brunswick County Em. Services            https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/emergency/hurricanes/

Brunswick County Telephone Notification   https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/7BC24EDE14D3

Brunswick County Special Needs               http://fs19.formsite.com/ubwatts/form165290145/index.html

Red Cross                                                            http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/disaster-relief

Brunswick Electric                                                            https://www.bemc.org/

Town of Calabash                                                             http://www.townofcalabash.net/

There are also numerous documents published regarding hurricane preparedness that can help you plan for that emergency.  Brunswick County Emergency Management, Brunswick Electric, and WECT publish hurricane guides to name a few.  Publications can be picked up at Calabash Town Hall for those that are interested.  Town Hall staff can also help you sign up for Brunswick County Code Red (emergency notification) and Special Needs if needed.

There are also social media outlets where you can find information (such as Calabash Connection, or Calabash Voice), however you should always check to see how old the information is to make sure you are not reading or relying on old information.  Storms change rapidly and information is posted frequently.  Use reliable sources.  Check sources to back up posts on social media.

Please take the time to make a plan and become familiar with the hazards associated with hurricanes.  Your Town has already taken care of its preliminary measures to make sure that we can try to maintain communications, keep stormwater flowing, and keep the roads and streets open.  Stay informed and be prepared.