Ch­ester County first re­spon­ders leave for hur­ri­cane re­sponse ef­fort.

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com

Mem­bers of two Ch­ester County vol­un­teer fire com­pa­nies are among those first re­spon­ders now but­ton­ing up against the on­slaught of Hur­ri­cane Florence, ac­cord­ing to one of the county’s top emer­gency of­fi­cials.

On Wed­nes­day, county De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices (DES) Deputy Di­rec­tor John Haynes said the men — Bill Cum­mings and Brad Cos­grove of West Ch­ester’s Fame Fire Com­pany and Mark Koenig of East White­land Fire Com­pany — had been de­ployed to the At­lantic Coast as part of PA Task Force-1, an ur­ban search and res­cue out­fit over­seen by the Fed­eral Emer­gency Manag­ment Agency (FEMA).

The men left for South Carolina on Mon­day with about 75 other mem­bers of the task force from the Philadel­phia area. Haynes said he did not know where the three had been sent, but that they would likely get as­sign­ments when the storm be­gins to hit, find­ing out where their tal­ents are needed.

Cum­mings, Cos­grove and Koenig have all been trained and cer­ti­fied to as­sist in na­tional emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, he said. They are mo­bi­lized through the PA Task Force-1 group when called by FEMA for a ma­jor dis­as­ter, ei­ther in the state or else­where.

Haynes said he got a first­hand look at the prepa­ra­tions be­ing made to tackle the ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Florence when it makes land­fall some­time tonight (Thurs­day) and later on dur­ing the week­end. He at­tended a 9-1-1 emer­gency man­agers con­fer­ence in North Carolina, and saw at least 150 util­ity truck mak­ing their way to the area on I-87 while he was com­ing back.

He said that at the con­fer­ence, at least one-half of the at­ten­ders got up and left as news of the im­pend­ing storm grew.

Coin­ci­den­tally, the county com­mis­sion­ers on Wed­nes­day pro­claimed Septem­ber to be Na­tional Pre­pared­ness Month, an an­nual event that at­tempts to high­light how res­i­dents and busi­nesses can put plan­ning to use dur­ing hur­ri­cane sea­son. Bill Turner of the county DES en­cour­aged res­i­dents to be­gin mak­ing a plan for what they will do if a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter or ter­ror­ist event oc­curs in the county, in­clud­ing hav­ing an emer­gency kit.

Turner also said peo­ple should sign up for news alerts on the “REady Ch­esco, org” sys­tem and the “Smart9-1-1” pro­gram.

Along the Carolina coast, com­mu­ni­ties be­gan pre­par­ing for Florence as fore­cast­ers Wed­nes­day warned that the mon­strous storm could hes­i­tate just off­shore for days — pun­ish­ing a longer stretch of coast­line than pre­vi­ously feared — be­fore push­ing its way in­land.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter’s pro­jected track had Florence hov­er­ing off the south­ern North Carolina coast from Thurs­day night un­til land­fall Satur­day morn­ing or so, about a day later than pre­vi­ously ex­pected. The track also shifted some­what south and west, throw­ing Ge­or­gia into peril as Florence moves in­land.

The over­all trend is “ex­cep­tion­ally bad news,” said Univer­sity of Mi­ami hur­ri­cane re­searcher Brian McNoldy, since it “smears a land­fall out over hun­dreds of miles of coast­line, most no­tably the storm surge.”

As of 8 a.m. Wed­nes­day, Florence, a po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic Cat­e­gory 4 storm, was cen­tered 530 miles (855 kilo­me­ters) south­east of Cape Fear, North Carolina, mov­ing at 17 mph (28 kph). It was pack­ing winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and enough mois­ture to dump feet of rain on the re­gion.

“This is not go­ing to be a glanc­ing blow,” Jeff Byard, an ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, warned. “This is go­ing to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

While some res­i­dents and tourists said they planned to stay put de­spite hur­ri­cane watches and warn­ings ex­tend­ing over the homes of more than 5.4 mil­lion peo­ple on the East Coast, many weren’t tak­ing any chances.

Steady streams of ve­hi­cles full of peo­ple and be­long­ings flowed in­land Tues­day as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to con­vince ev­ery­one on North Carolina’s coast to flee.

“The waves and the wind this storm may bring is noth­ing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve rid­den out storms be­fore, this one is dif­fer­ent. Don’t bet your life on rid­ing out a mon­ster,” he said.

Florence is the most dan­ger­ous of three trop­i­cal sys­tems in the At­lantic. Trop­i­cal Storm Isaac was ex­pected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Cuba, while Hur­ri­cane He­lene was mov­ing north­ward away from land. Fore­cast­ers also were track­ing two other dis­tur­bances.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the east­ern tip of North Carolina un­der more than 9 feet (2.75 meters) of wa­ter in spots, pro­jec­tions showed. The Navy, Air Force and Army were mov­ing ships and air­craft out of harm’s way. Thou­sands of Marines and their fam­i­lies evac­u­ated from Camp Leje­une, leav­ing the rest to dig in ahead of what could be a di­rect hit.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.