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Hurricane Isaias Dumps Heavy Rain And Possible Flooding On North Carolina


Hurricane Isaias is dumping heavy rain in the Carolinas. It made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina last night. It was downgraded to a tropical storm, and now that storm is moving north, where the forecast is flooding and possibly some tornadoes. Mike Sprayberry is on the line with me. He's the director of Emergency Management for the state of North Carolina. Good morning, sir.

MIKE SPRAYBERRY: Hey. Good morning, Noel.

KING: You, I imagine, have a big job ahead of you. We're a few hours into daylight. What can you tell us? What are you seeing?

SPRAYBERRY: Well, as you mentioned, we did have landfall last night at 11:10 p.m. at Ocean Isle, N.C. - that's in Brunswick County - as a Category 1 hurricane with about 85-mile-per-hour winds. There was significant storm surge, rain and winds in Brunswick County. And so we really had a lot of damages there. So that was really, I think, our most severely hit county. But we also did experience a tornado up in Bertie County, which is in the more northern part of our state and - where it hit a couple of mobile home parks. And we, you know, experienced one fatality and a number of injuries.

So right now we're still in the process of working in Bertie County. We're working in Brunswick County. We feel like the damages weren't so severe in simple North Carolina, but there were a lot of downed trees and some minor flooding. We had around 360,000 households without power at one point.

KING: Any idea how many fatalities in total?

SPRAYBERRY: We're thinking at this time it's just the one in Bertie County due to that tornado.

KING: OK, OK. May I ask which communities in particular you're most concerned about? We were talking to someone in Brunswick County this morning who mentioned people needing to be rescued from their homes. Is that something widespread?

SPRAYBERRY: So at this point, with the water receding, we don't anticipate having a lot of rescues. But we do think that we need to make some structural assessments with our urban search and rescue teams to make sure that those homes and other structures are able to be, you know, to have people go back inside and re-enter.

And so right now, we don't feel like there's a big demand signal for a rescue. Now, last night was a different story. There were people that were trapped in their homes and other places. But that has passed. The storms moved up into Virginia and points north. So at this point, we don't have a big demand signal for rescues.

KING: And tell me how you've been managing all of this in light of the fact that we are simultaneously in the middle of a pandemic. What's been different this time around? I know you're used to hurricanes. You're not unfamiliar with hurricanes in North Carolina. How did the pandemic change things?

SPRAYBERRY: Well, in several ways. So here at the state EOC, normally, we would have a big crowd. And so our staff is slimmed down here at the EOC. Those of us that are here are wearing our personal protective gear, our mask. We're maintaining our physical distance, and we're washing our hands frequently. I will say that our swift-water rescue teams, our urban search and rescue teams that we deploy, they deploy with personal protective equipment. So you'll see those guys out wearing their mask as they execute their mission. We're also standing up shelters. Our local partners are standing up shelters, and they're basically making sure there's enough physical distancing within those shelters and that there are screening operations going on before they go into the shelters. We also have non-congregate sheltering available.

KING: Mike Sprayberry is director of Emergency Management for the state of North Carolina. Mr. Sprayberry, thank you for your time. We really appreciate it.

SPRAYBERRY: Thank you, Noel. Have a great day.

KING: You, too, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.