ROCKINGHAM — Though the path of Hurricane Irma is still uncertain, Richmond County residents aren’t waiting until the last minute to prepare.
By 6 p.m. Thursday, Walmart was completely out of loaf bread — though tortillas and various buns and rolls remained — and nearly out of bottled water, aside from a small pallet near the grocery entrance and a few bottles of “premium” water.
Some shoppers stocked up on Gatorade and other various beverages — including those of the alcoholic variety.
Richmond County Emergency Management is also making preparations to weather the storm, should it affect the area.
Donna Wright, emergency services director, said Thursday that her department is participating in multiple daily weather updates through the National Weather Service and with North Carolina Emergency Management.
“Local equipment has been checked and tested,” she said via email. “Richmond County Health and DSS employees inventoried our shelters that contain cots, blankets and comfort kits to make sure all were ready should a shelter be needed.”
Wright said emergency personnel have identified several shelters and are working with social services and the American Red Cross “to determine if we need to open shelters.”
If shelters are opened, she said, the county will send out a media blast to announce shelter opening locations and times they will open.
“The main concern for Richmond County is the possibility of local flooding in places that are prone to flood,” she said adding that downed trees and power outages are also possible.
During Hurricane Matthew’s assault on the state last October, heavy rains caused creeks to rise, flooding several businesses on East Broad Avenue and making multiple roads impassible.
“Richmond County residents should not drive during the storm unless it is an emergency,” Wright continued. “If you do have to go out during the storm, do not drive through flooded roads. Always remember: Turn around; don’t drown.”
Wright said residents should also make sure their emergency kits are up to date to include copies of important documents, such as insurance policies and birth certificates.
The potential lies for power outages lasting several days, both during and after the storm, she said. Outages should be reported to the service provider, not by calling 911.
“Residents should also prepare their homes by securing yard toys, trash cans and lawn furniture,” she added. “These items can become flying debris during heavy winds.”
Those with smartphones or tablets can also download the ReadyNC app at https://readync.org/EN/DOWNLOADAPP.html .
“This app provides tips on building an emergency kit, making a communications plan and also provides road conditions and any shelter in (the state) that is opened is listed within this app,” Wright said. “Another tip for our residents would be to register their cellphone number and email addresses in our reverse notification system. This will allow them to receive emergency information on their cell from via text or voice call.”
To register, go to http://www.richmondnc.com/163/Emergency-Services and click on “Code Red.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.