North Carolina Braces for Hurricane Irene; Churches Standby With Shelter, Relief

Several counties in North Carolina have been busy preparing for hurricane Irene, which is in the direct path of the southeastern state.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue issued a state of emergency Wednesday night for counties east of I-95. She has also requested a pre-landfall emergency declaration from President Barack Obama to ensure that the state will be provided with federal assistance in conjunction with relief efforts.

“Hurricane Irene poses a significant threat to our state and we need to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors, along with property and infrastructure along our coast,” she told the Gaston Gazette.

Two churches in North Carolina coastal areas have opened their doors to receive evacuees, the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety reports. Forty-seven other churches remain on standby and are prepared to receive evacuees if necessary.

The Englewood Baptist Church is serving as the shelter for Nash County. It is able to hold 150 people and housed 23 people Thursday night.

The Raleigh Road Baptist Church is serving as the shelter for Wilson County. It is able to hold 250 people, but has not yet housed any evacuees.

The Gaston County Missionary Baptist Association remains on standby to assist North Carolina residents, the Gaston Gazette reports. The mission works in conjunction with churches in areas that have been affected by disaster in order to provide relief.

GCMBA member Hugh Grant told the Gaston Gazette that manpower is available if it is needed, but that damage must be surveyed before they can respond.

“If something happens, we will mobilize and do what we can,” he said. “We’ll mobilize the churches and the men and move forward. We have a standing order if we need help.”

Gov. Perdue says the Red Cross and National Guard, among other organizations are also ready to mobilize and assist those in need.

“I talked to the director of the Red Cross, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, they will do whatever we need to do. We have volunteers all over North Carolina who are ready to help. We have all the vehicles and all the supplies, so we are preparing as best we can,” she told the State Column.

Irene is expected to reach land late Saturday afternoon near Ocracoke Island. The hurricane is expected to most immediately affect the North Carolina coast from Surf City to the Virginia border and the National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Watch for those areas.