Polk, towns preparing for Hurricane Irma

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, September 7, 2017

POLK COUNTY – Polk County and its towns have been preparing this week and watching Hurricane Irma closely and its possible impacts on the area.


All areas have met and checked equipment to be prepared in case the area is impacted with high winds and heavy rains. Downed trees, power outages and possible flooding could threaten the area after the hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida and travel to the Carolinas as either a category I hurricane or a tropical storm.

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Polk County could see the impacts late Monday, Sept. 11 and into Tuesday, Sept. 12.


Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said town officials, including the police, fire and public works departments have been meeting to make sure all the equipment is in order and vehicles and equipment have gasoline. Fire chiefs from all county departments were scheduled to meet on Friday, Sept. 8 to go over plans to work together.


Tryon as well as other towns are prepared to send out Nixle, Facebook, Twitter and website postings with any warnings or actions that need to be taken.


“Basically we need to watch the weather,” Ollis said. “We are expecting high winds and rain that could mean a lot of trees fall. We’re preparing to start clearing trees as soon as they start falling.”


Ollis said if needed, the Tryon Fire Department could be turned into a shelter as it has a generator and a kitchen.


Ollis said he has also told employees to get rest this weekend because they could very well be pulling an all-nighter Monday. Ollis said he thinks most people know that between the town’s police, fire and public works employees they will be taken care of. In July this year, the area received five inches of rain and Tryon employees stayed out all night dealing with issues.


“As it gets closer, that’s when we’ll decide what we’re doing,” Ollis said. “We are going to lose sleep so our citizens don’t have to. We’re going to do everything we can to be prepared. And once it’s done, we’ll make sure people can get in and out of their homes.”


Ollis also said Tryon has good working relationships with the county, Columbus, Landrum and Saluda and will be good neighbors.


Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon said he is monitoring the storm closely.


“With an ever changing forecast, it is difficult to know if and how our area will be impacted,” said Cannon. “Saluda is a second home to many from the South Carolina coast and I anticipate the city will see many of those families in town as they seek refuge from the storm.”


Cannon said Saluda’s staff and police have been notified to check equipment and fuel supplies and to be prepared in case wind and rain cause downed trees or power outages.


The Columbus Fire Department put water rescue equipment on its trucks this week in preparation and stocked trucks with extra medical supplies and rescue equipment.


Columbus Fire Chief Tony Priester said the department will have extra personnel at the fire department to handle any emergency.


“Our swift water techs are preparing and staging equipment at our main station,” Priester said Thursday. “We have an F350 4wd transport vehicle that we are putting extra medical supplies, ropes, drinking water, chain saws and rain gear in. Our 5-ton military brush truck is being prepared to go if need be to flooded roads for emergency calls.”


Columbus Town Manager Tim Barth said town employees are making sure generators at the town’s various facilities are filled with fuel and operational as well as making sure all chain saws and brush clearing tools are operational.

Dump trucks, the backhoe and all police vehicles are also being fueled up this week to be ready, Barth said.


“I am not sure of the latest information on Irma, but we hope that it moves further east and we hope it remains a fast moving storm, so that wind and rain are just short term events,” said Barth.


Polk County also released a statement on Thursday regarding preparing for the potential storm, including that the water level at Lake Adger will be lowered five feet to help minimize the impact.


Polk County’s statement

“Polk County would like to remind all citizens and visitors in Polk County during the potential impact of Hurricane Irma to be prepared. The greatest threats to our area will be:

  • Damaging winds, downed trees and power lines (power outages).
  • Flooding and flash flooding.
  • Severe thunderstorms and tornados.

The water level at Lake Adger is being lowered five feet (5’) to help minimize the impact.

Polk County Emergency Management and staff are meeting regularly during this threat, and are communicating daily with State Emergency Management and the National Weather service to get the latest information. These meetings will continue until the threat is over.


Public information resources:

  • Polk County website polknc.org
  • Polk County Local Government Facebook page.
  • Polk County Emergency Management/Fire Marshal Facebook page.
  • Like and Share these pages so others will receive the updated information
  • Download the ReadyNC app. This app will provide local weather conditions, road conditions, power outages, open shelters, evacuations, and also information on your emergency plans and emergency kits.
  • Sign up for CodeRed at https://public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/993C2AD17ACA or call the Emergency Management office 828-894-6342 during regular office hours M-F 8:30am-5:00pm for assistance in signing up.

Things you can do:

  • Create an emergency plan.
  • Put all important papers together and have them accessible.
  • Purchase enough non-perishable food and bottled water to last at least 72 hours.
  • Battery powered radio and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • ABC fire extinguisher.
  • Cell phone and charger.
  • Any medicines you will need.
  • Make sure your pets are taken care of as well and make sure they have enough food and water available for at least 72 hours as well.
  • If you have an emergency please call 9-1-1


This type of storm is very unpredictable, the track and the impacts to our area are dependent on the path the storm takes. Continuous monitoring of the local news and weather is very important to staying informed. Polk County is working diligently to make sure that we are prepared for whatever impact Hurricane Irma brings to our area.”


Tryon statement

Tryon Communications put out the following information on Thursday, Sept. 7:


“The National Weather Service in its latest Hazardous Weather Outlook statement (9/7/17 at 4 a.m.) is predicting possible Tropical Storm hazards (storm surges, heavy rainfall & flooding, high winds) on Monday 9/11 for our area, where the remnants of Hurricane Irma would bring excessive rainfall and damaging wind gusts to the region.
This may carry over into Tuesday, 9/12 as well.
The Town of Tryon continues to monitor the weather and all departments are preparing for possible impacts. Follow the below for further updates:
Facebook: facebook.com/TryonNC
Twitter: twitter.com/TryComm
National Weather Service: weather.gov/gsp/”


Forecasters will not know the potential impact to the area until Irma hits land in south Florida. The forecast as to Irma’s path after it makes landfall in Florida has changed several times over the last few days. Stay tuned to the Bulletin for updates on the storm.