RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency Friday for 33 counties in eastern North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Sandy.
A statement from Perdue’s office said residents shouldn’t be fooled by the storm weakening to Category 1 status. She said people need to take Sandy seriously and be prepared.
Perdue’s proclamation authorizes additional state resources to assist county and municipal governments. It also gives the governor expanded powers to respond to the storm’s impact.
“Our state’s veteran emergency management team is ready for Sandy, but coastal North Carolinians need to be just as prepared,” Perdue said.
Officials expect Sandy to affect the state through Tuesday.
Sandy left 40 people dead across the Caribbean as it churned north on a path that’s expected to keep the center well out to sea as it passes North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It could convert into a winter storm next week farther north along the East Coast.
Early rain and winds arrived Friday on the Outer Banks, a roughly 200-mile stretch of fragile barrier islands off the state’s coast. Winds of 30 to 50 mph were expected by Saturday night along with several inches of rain.
As of 8 p.m., the National Hurricane Center placed the center of Sandy about 400 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C., with sustained winds of 75 mph. It was moving to the north at 7 mph. A tropical storm warning was posted for the entire North Carolina coast, including Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The section of the South Carolina coast north of South Santee River to the N.C. line was also under a tropical storm warning, while the section to the south of the river was under a tropical storm warning.
“We’re just starting to see a little rain and the wind picking up. So things are just starting to happen,” said Veda Peters, who owns the Cypress House Inn in Kill Devil Hills with her husband. “So we are taking precautions.”
While the main highway onto the vacation islands was full of visitors hoping to enjoy a planned getaway, Peters said she was encouraging guests to her bed-and- breakfast to fill their gas tanks ahead of a possible power outage if they planned to stay.
The converted house is only about 100 yards from the ocean, so the reinforced hurricane shutters on the second floor are locked in place to protect the window from flying debris. But first-floor windows under the wraparound porch that were encased by bolt-on shutters ahead of Irene aren’t likely to be at risk from this storm, Peters said.
Other coastal residents were securing trash cans and hot tubs, and pulling boats out of their docks to higher ground. But gas stations generally were uncrowded and ferries maintained their schedules Friday without floods of evacuees.
“We’re treating it like we would any other hurricane. We are monitoring it closely,” said Sandy Sanderson, Dare County Emergency Management director. “Everything we typically do during a hurricane, we have done or are in the process of doing.”
Hyde County declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon, county manager Mazie Smith said. The declaration, issued prior to the governor’s proclamation, lets the state know that its help may be needed once Sandy passes by.
“We just want to be prepared in case we need additional assistance, and it puts our county staff on alert that they may be needed after the storm,” Smith said.
In Brunswick County, emergency services director Anthony Marzano said no evacuations have been ordered and that he doesn’t expect any such actions to be taken.
Marzano said the worst problem will be flooding in conjunction with the coming full moon. Otherwise, he said, rain and wind will be persistent.
“It’s going to be a miserable couple of days to be outside,” Marzano said.
Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Julia Jarema said the State Emergency Operations Center will begin its work Saturday morning.
“This is not behaving like typical hurricanes. That fact that it’s not predicted to make landfall in North Carolina doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact in North Carolina.”
On Ocracoke Island, a 16-mile-long barrier island accessible only by boat that is home to about 800 year-round residents, there was no plan for any evacuation before gale-force winds force the ferries to batten down Saturday, said Tommy Hutcherson, a community leader whose family has owned the Ocracoke Variety Store for 30 years.
“People go through this all the time around here. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. All the local people tend to stock up on supplies and the (grocery) store’s been bustling,” said Hutcherson, whose business sells both groceries and hardware supplies. The hardware side of the store, on the other hand, hasn’t seen much of a pickup ahead of the storm.
“They might be selling a few extra nails, but mainly it’s more people stocking up on grocery supplies,” Hutcherson said.
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