By Clellie Allen
LOUISBURG — Our area is expecting to be hit with the third winter storm of the season right about now. While frigid temperatures and even a little bit of frozen precipitation is a fairly usual winter occurrence, the climate in central North Carolina is so comparatively mild, chances are there are a number of newbies to the area, unaccustomed to the ice storms that can paralyze the Old North State from time to time.
Snow is one thing
Tuesday evening, Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones was stressing the importance of folks only venturing out if absolutely necessary as the county’s resources were mobilizing to be prepared for the worst.
“I know that in reality, some folks will have to get on the road,” Jones said. “Snow is one thing to drive on, but if we get snow and then the expected half-inch of ice, then it will be treacherous.”
“Even four-wheel drive isn’t going to do any good,” he said.
Jones stressed the need for folks to show common sense if they have to be out.
“Make sure you have a full tank of gas and blankets and things to keep warm in case you go off the road,” he said. Other recommendations were to carry cat litter or sand to help with traction.
But about using chains, he was a ambivalent. “Chains work, if your vehicle is heavy enough,” something he said the average car isn’t these days.
The Sheriff’s Office will be deploying its second-string vehicles during the messiest weather. “We park our newest cars, and pull out the older ones,” Jones said, adding that they even have some old Army vehicles in their fleet. “They’re not pretty, but they do the job, he said. Additionally, every squad has a chainsaw and all the cars have tow ropes. And, Jones stressed, deputies will be checking out and marking all vehicles seen stranded on the road to make sure no one is inside.
Neighbors are key
Franklin County spent Monday and Tuesday putting the final touches on their emergency plans that got a run through two weeks ago with the first significant snow event of the season.
“It is a joint effort in the county, with different departments all coordinating with Jeff Lewis,” Jones said.
Lewis is the county’s director of emergency management, emergency medical services and the fire marshal.
“Neighbors helping neighbors is the key in Franklin County,” Lewis said. “We don’t have a lot of the resources other counties have, but we have each other,” he added.
Case in point is the small army of volunteers ready to check on residents with special needs — like those needing dialysis or who have home oxygen tanks.
“We’ve made our rounds, making sure everyone knows the storm is coming and has what they need for the first few days,” Lewis said. “That is my mantra: Be ready to weather in place for the first 72 hours.”
Both Jones and Lewis stressed that asking residents to be able to care for themselves the first days of a disaster does not mean that the county will not respond to emergencies.
“We will always respond to emergencies to the best of our ability,” Lewis said.
“But we have to also look out for our personnel and make sure they are safe,” he added. “We don’t want them to end up in the ditch themselves trying to get somewhere.”
Be prepared to stay
A lot goes on behind the scenes that the average person might not be aware of as they hit the stores for bread and milk. For example, Jones has to ensure the jail is ready, too.
He’s told both the law enforcement staff as well as folks like the cooks to come with extra clothes in case they have to spend the night to keep things running.
The hospital and other care facilities are checked on as well.
Jones added that he will likely have deputies staying in various fire houses during the storm to both be deployed throughout the county as well as to provide help for EMS and fire if needed.
The county will also open up shelters if needed. Lewis said that if shelters are warranted, they will get the news out on the county’s website, franklincountync.us/services/emergency-services, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Facebook page, facebook.com/FranklinCountySheriffOffice?fref=ts, as well as on TV and radio.
This newspaper will also post the information on it’s website, wakeweekly.com, Facebook and Twitter, twitter.com/wakeweekly.