WNPR

Carolina Beach Town Manager On Hurricane Preparations

Sep 13, 2018
Originally published on September 13, 2018 11:05 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The towns in the path of Hurricane Florence include Carolina Beach, which is in North Carolina. Look on the map. It's on a little strip of land with the Atlantic Ocean in front of it and the waters of the Cape Fear River behind. Michael Cramer is the town manager, and he's on the line.

Good morning, sir.

MICHAEL CRAMER: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Is anywhere in Carolina Beach - anywhere at all - considered high enough to be safe?

CRAMER: Yes. There are a few strips of land on Carolina Beach and on Pleasure Island in general that are high. Most of them are very close to the Cape Fear River.

INSKEEP: OK. So toward the back of that strip of land that we just described, people might be able to find safety. But is it necessary for many people in your community to evacuate to be safe?

CRAMER: Most definitely. And our council back on Tuesday issued a state of emergency and put in effect a mandatory evacuation for 8 o'clock last night. That also comes along with a 8 o'clock curfew so that people don't leave their property if they are going to stay in Carolina Beach. And that's...

INSKEEP: Oh, so you said, if you're staying, stay home as of 8 o'clock last night. How have people responded to that?

CRAMER: Actually, we did extremely well. I talked with our police chief this morning. And we had two or three stragglers that were, I guess you'd say, joyriding, going around looking at things. And they were politely asked to go back home, and they did.

INSKEEP: Did you have some people who said, hey, wait a minute; I want to run out and buy supplies?

CRAMER: We have had a few challenges with the new track of the storm, getting more calls from citizens saying, well, OK, if I go over the bridge, am I able to get back on? And our answer has been, no, you can't. And that's mainly because we don't want to encourage more people to come across and have a date in Carolina Beach during the storm.

INSKEEP: So I'm looking at the National Hurricane Center website and trying to figure out how Carolina Beach relates to the path of this storm - don't know exactly where it's going to make landfall, but doesn't look so good for you guys right now.

CRAMER: We are expecting very high seas, which, for us, means an awful lot of storm surge and also a lot of rain. It doesn't look like with the new track of the storm that we are on the Northwest side anymore, which is great because that's where the high winds are.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

CRAMER: But we will experience 9-to-13-foot storm surges and supposedly 20 to 40 inches' worth of rain.

INSKEEP: Nine to 13 feet - that is big for a beach community. Has there been a storm this bad that has struck so near to you before?

CRAMER: Not recently. We have had brushes with storms like Fran and Floyd and so forth back in the '90s, but even those were different. This one is a little bit unique in how it's approaching us. Mostly, they approach from the south. This one's coming, you know, sort of directly at us.

INSKEEP: Going to come directly along that beach, that north-south beach.

CRAMER: That's right.

INSKEEP: So if it were, let's say, a 13-foot storm surge, the highest that they have been imagining possible, does that put a large part of your town underwater?

CRAMER: Easily a third of our community will be underwater. We'll have our north end, which we most likely will have the ocean overtopping our dunes and bringing a lot of sand into the area. And then on our sound side, we have a very low area, and we're expecting that to be lapping at the first floor of our elevated homes.

INSKEEP: Wow. Very briefly, Mr. Cramer, have you been able, over time, to make the community more resilient for this situation, to make sure the power stays on, to make sure the critical infrastructure is up high enough, that sort of thing?

CRAMER: Most definitely. For us, our focus has been stormwater management and trying to evacuate as much stormwater, rainwater as we can - and the storm surge. So we put in an awful lot of pumps and infrastructure, things like that.

INSKEEP: You're going to be pumping like New Orleans does, huh?

CRAMER: Constantly, we're pumping.

INSKEEP: All right. Mr. Cramer, thanks very much. Good luck to you and your community.

CRAMER: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: Michael Cramer is the town manager of Carolina Beach, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.