Evacuations ordered as Bonnie draws near

BY GEORGE PIPER | NC | August 24, 1998

The Category 3 hurricane was located about 450 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras at 8 a.m. and hurricane

warnings were posted from the North Carolina/Virginia border, south to Murrells Inlet, SC.

Bonnie is a massive storm, larger than the state of Texas, packing hurricane winds outward nearly 150 miles from its


The eventual destination of the massive storm has been even more difficult to predict than most hurricanes,

meteorologists said. "It's erratic. It could do something weird," said Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane


A hurricane watch has been posted north to Cape Henlopen, DE, including the southern portion of the Chesapeake


Warnings are posted when a storm is within 24-hours of land; watches are issued when potential storms are within 36

hours of impacting an area.

If it stays on its current track, the center of the storm is expected to be near the Outer Banks on Wednesday afternoon,

with tropical storm winds reaching the coast that morning.

Preparing for any eventuality, many churches along the North Carolina coast are on alert and some members are being

urged to retreat inland, says the Rev. Jerry Jackson, a conference disaster coordinator for the North Carolina

Conference of the United Methodist Church, and minister of Northwoods United Methodist Church in Jacksonsville,

N.C. The church's emergency kitchen is also being prepared.

Area churches are being designated as shelters and to house the volunteer work teams that are assembled during relief

efforts, Jackson added.

National Guard units are on alert in both North Carolina and South Carolina, as emergency management officials

prepare for additional evacuations if the storm comes ashore.

At 400 miles wide, Hurricane Bonnie may cover most of North Carolina's shoreline with strong currents and tides. In

addition to its extensive winds, the forecasters say the storm surge as the hurricane makes landfall could exceed 10


The storm's potential reminds Jackson of Hurricane Hugo that hit the state in 1989. Hugo, a Category 4 storm, was

the second-most costly hurricane in U.S. history, with damages topping $7.1 billion.

"Right now we're just watching it and trying to get the chain saws ready," he added.

Local interfaith groups along the North Carolina coast are getting ready for Bonnie as well.

The Hatteras (N.C.) Interfaith Council, organized during Hurricane Emily in 1993, is identifying churches, community

centers and fire stations as possible relief shelters, says the Rev. James Huskins, the council's director and North

Carolina United Methodist Conference disaster team member.

A focal point for relief efforts around Hatteras Island, N.C., the council is boosting its communications' capability to

aid potential response efforts. Four of the council's 13 pastors have 60-watt, low frequency radios in their vehicles, and

Huskins hopes to eventually equip all members with such devices. Huskins also relies on local ham radio operators

during severe storms.

Local interfaith groups will be important in effective community disaster response, says Dennis Levin, president of

North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response (NCIDR) and a Church World Service (CWS) consultant.

"These organizations got going under (hurricanes) Bertha and Fran," he says. "Those experiences will be instrumental

in getting mainline interfaiths to operate through local groups."

In Charleston, S.C., Al Aiken of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance says he is working to get relief supplies ready and

is working with American Red Cross officials to set up potential emergency operations centers. Aiken is also

networking with others who have worked in past hurricane relief efforts.

"We have a group of people stationed around this area that have had experience and we just call on these people," he

says. "Everything is kind of on hold here. We're just waiting to see what this thing will do."

Atlantic Ocean rip tides from Bonnie were blamed for three deaths along the coast on Sunday and Monday.

A Category 3 storm packs winds of 111-130 miles per hour with a storm surge 9 feet to 12 feet above normal.

Bonnie is the second of four Atlantic storms of the 1998 season. Tropical Storm Alex dissipated over open water

earlier this month while Tropical Storm Charley landed in Texas over the weekend.

On Monday, weather officials said Tropical Storm Danielle had formed 1,200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. By

Tuesday morning, its winds had increased to 50 mph and additional strengthening was expected.

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What's changed, what hasn't at FEMA

Atlantic storm morphs into Javier

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