Onslow County hosts Category 4 hurricane exercise

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Early predictions for this hurricane season say it could be just as bad if not worse than last year. One local community is planning ahead for the worst.

Onslow County hasn’t seen a category four hurricane since 1954 with Hurricane Hazel. But Tuesday, they sat down to make sure all county safety forces are prepared for the worst-case scenario.

The hurricane exercise gave county employees the opportunity to work out what their responsibilities would be in a hurricane emergency.

Director of Onslow County Emergency Services Norman Bryson said, “If we start preparation for what we feel could be the worst effects, then anything else that comes in lower than that should be well prepared for.”

County departments like energy, communications, and public works all crafted a timeline of their responses.

They considered things like when to advise residents to evacuate or stay in place

“Here in Onslow County,” said Bryson, “we’ve never done a mandatory evacuation for the county as a whole. We have had some for North Topsail Beach, but those are some of the discussions that we need to have. What are we going to do if we have to move the majority of our population?”

The National Weather Service’s warning coordination meteorologist Erik Heden said a lot of people focus on the wind and forget how dangerous water can be in a hurricane.

“More than 80 percent of those that lose their life in a hurricane, it’s because of water,” said Heden. “So a lot of times we focus on the category of the storm, is it a one, is it a two. But it’s the water that kills the most people from flooding or storm surge.”

Heden said of the people that die from water in hurricanes, more than 50 percent die in a car trying to escape flooded areas. So it’s important to have a plan in place before this becomes an issue.

June 1 through November 30 marks the official hurricane season. But Heden said we’ve seen hurricanes as early as May and the peak is expected to be in mid-September.

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