With winter weather on the minds of both Lincoln County residents and a majority of individuals living within the Carolinas and surrounding Southeastern states this week, city and county agencies have prepared themselves for the worst, ready to handle any potential emergency that may occur in the coming days.
Emergency officials with Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton gathered Monday at the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) — in the courthouse basement — for a conference call with the National Weather Service.
Coordinated by the Western branch of North Carolina’s Division of Emergency Management, the meeting focused on discussion about general precautions and other safety measures taking place statewide this week as a result of incoming wintry precipitation, Assistant County Manager Martha Lide said.
Individuals with local police, fire, Emergency Management, the Communications Center, Public Works, Department of Transportation and Lincoln County Schools flocked to the meeting.
The group also spoke with Tony Sturey, with the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., to review the specific weather models experts have predicted for the area for the next few days.
Officials met again on Tuesday for a second conference call and laid out a plan of action for the county.
“It was really a time for us to put our heads together,” Lide said.
Weather models showed Lincoln County receiving between 4 and 12 inches of snow starting Wednesday morning and continuing through Thursday afternoon before moving north to the Raleigh area, Lide said.
The group proved most concerned about the high potential for downed power lines, outages and accidents along area roadways.
Lide hoped residents wouldn’t be fooled by the lack of Lincoln County flakes on Tuesday and felt certain the second upcoming storm system would greatly impact the area.
She urged individuals to avoid traveling area roadways for any reason.
“This time they (weather experts) are very confident,” she said.
Every Lincoln County emergency service agency has been placed on high alert, and an increased number of EMS vehicles have also been made available, Lide noted.
“We always anticipate additional transportation services (for storm events),” she said.
If necessary, shelters will be setup in Lincolnton and other locations throughout the county for anyone without power. However, specific facilities have yet to be determined, county officials said.
Officials with the City of Lincolnton also detailed their plans to deal with a winter weather event.
“Our Public Works crew has equipment ready to move snow, and we have sand ready if needed,” Lincolnton City Manager Jeff Emory said. “They’ll be on call as long as needed to keep the streets safe.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Governor McCrory signed a State of Emergency declaration enabling him to mobilize necessary resources to respond to a storm. Included in the executive order was a 30-day waiver regarding the restrictions on weight as well as the hours of service for fuel, utility and other truck drivers working to deliver supplies, restore services or clear debris in response to inclement weather
“Our residents, as well as our livestock industry, need heat and electricity,” McCrory said. “These declarations are one way that the state can help to ensure that goods and services are restored as soon as possible.”
Since Sunday, 1,350 NCDOT employees have used 445 NCDOT trucks and 15 contract trucks to spray salt brine on interstates, four-lane divided highways and major routes across the state in an effort to deter snow and ice from accumulating on the pavement.
According to The Weather Channel’s website, Lincolnton, Denver and Vale should all expect to see a few snow showers beginning between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday, increasing in intensity throughout the afternoon and evening. Around midnight Thursday, the snow is predicted to be interspersed with periods of sleet and rain until noon.
“With heavy snow and ice, keeping the power on is our number one concern, followed by city streets,” Emory said. “In the event electricity is lost, we will send crews to restore power as soon as possible.”
Due to the predicted inclement weather, all Lincoln County Government offices will be closed today. Lincoln County schools are closed for all students and staff today as well. For more information on county closings and winter storm preparations, visit www.lincolncounty.org.