All eyes on Hurricane Florence in Mathews

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Sep 12, 2018 - 01:24 PM

Photo: New Point resident Allen Rogers, left, guides his neighbor Dave Chance (in boat) and Dave’s son Ben Chance (driving) of Richmond as they pull Dave’s boat out of the water at Davis Creek Marina Tuesday morning, ahead of Hurricane Florence. “If it got much higher, I think we could’ve driven the boat out,” said Dave. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

New Point resident Allen Rogers, left, guides his neighbor Dave Chance (in boat) and Dave’s son Ben Chance (driving) of Richmond as they pull Dave’s boat out of the water at Davis Creek Marina Tuesday morning, ahead of Hurricane Florence. “If it got much higher, I think we could’ve driven the boat out,” said Dave. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Photo: Water covered the docks and boat ramp and was flooding the banks at Davis Creek Marina in Bavon on Tuesday. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Water covered the docks and boat ramp and was flooding the banks at Davis Creek Marina in Bavon on Tuesday. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

With much of Mathews County under a mandatory evacuation order, many residents were encouraged to leave the area Tuesday morning in advance of Hurricane Florence, as the monster storm closed in on the North Carolina coast.

Mathews County’s emergency operations center team held a meeting Tuesday morning to determine what actions to take in the wake of Gov. Ralph Northam’s order establishing a statewide mandatory evacuation of flood Zone A. Most of Mathews County lies in Zone A.

Y shelter should be a last resort

County Administrator Mindy Conner said that residents who follow the governor’s orders to evacuate should use the county’s new emergency shelter at the YMCA on Cricket Hill Road only as a last resort.

She said the building has limited capacity and that residents who have the option of staying with friends or relatives should do so. Anyone who needs to use the shelter should bring their own bedding, medications, food and water, said Conner, and should pack a bag for an overnight stay. Those who have pets may bring them, she said.

She directed residents to the county’s website, www.mathewscountyva.gov, for information about evacuation routes for various parts of the county, and advised residents to monitor weather advisories and make preparations to protect themselves and their families.

Emergency Management Coordinator Willie Love said that flood zone decisions are driven primarily by access. If roads and intersections are flooded, he said, emergency responders can’t get to a person requesting help, even if that person is on high enough ground that his or her “feet are dry.” An evacuation order gets everyone out of harm’s way, he said.

Once the storm hits and conditions are no longer safe, said Conner, emergency responders will stop responding to emergency calls. She said that people who haven’t evacuated will be largely on their own until the roads are cleared and accessible and regular operations resume. She also said that, since the county administration offices are in Zone A, they will be evacuated sometime Thursday afternoon before the storm is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas.

Conner said that Sheriff Mark Barrick is asking that people call 911 only for emergencies, not for storm information. Such calls have been tying up telephone lines and making emergency response more difficult, Conner said.

This is the first time the county has had flood zone maps and the first time that an evacuation order has come directly from the governor, said Conner. The decision about whether to order a mandatory evacuation has in the past always been a local emergency management decision, she said.

At Davis Creek Marina in Bavon on Tuesday morning, while the storm was still 48 hours from making landfall, water sloshed over the docks as New Point neighbors Dave Chance and Allen Rogers worked on getting their boats out of the creek with the help of Chance’s son Ben. They jokingly said if the water got much higher, they could just drive the boats out without a trailer.

Wayne Hudgins, a Bavon resident who works as both a waterman and a long-distance trucker, said he had already pulled his workboat out of the water and was in Ashland getting his truck worked on. Long lines of tractor-trailers waited to get fuel, he said, and I-95 was heavy with traffic as residents of the Carolinas evacuated.

Nursing home evacuates

Donald Lundin, administrator of Riverside Convalescent Center Mathews, said the center was “in full preparation mode” for evacuating all its residents subsequent to an evacuation order for all Zone A residents that was issued Tuesday by Northam. Lundin said that staff would be moving people to other Riverside facilities.

Although the center has never had to evacuate before, he said he was confident that, with the resources available through Riverside and its partners, patients would remain “in good shape and out of harm’s way.”

Riverside spokesperson Peter Glagola added that all of the center’s 60 residents will be moved by the company’s transport partner, AMR, to six other Riverside Convalescent Centers that have care settings similar to those in Mathews. He expected the move to be completed by Tuesday.

Family members may still call the Mathews number, 804-725-9443, for information about their loved ones, said Glagola, because calls to that number will be transferred to Riverside’s emergency operations center, which will know the disposition of all patients.