Many NC counties lack ‘StormReady’ designation

Almost 14 years ago, the National Weather Service initiated a nationwide community preparedness program called StormReady that encouraged government entities and public places to prepare for severe storms. 

While states like South Carolina have all of their counties qualified for StormReady, North Carolina only has half of its 100 counties qualified.

North Carolina is no stranger to severe weather, and over the years the state has become quite good at preparing for the worst from Mother Nature. But is North Carolina good enough?

In 1999, a major severe weather outbreak in Tulsa, Okla., ignited a national initiative to get the United States “StormReady.” Nick Petro, with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, said the game is to make sure a county “is prepared and they can make the most of those few seconds they may have when severe weather is approaching.”

But how prepared is North Carolina? Most of the counties in central North Carolina have earned the StormReady accreditation, but some — like Wilson County — have not.

Gordon Deno, director of Wilson County Emergency Management, said he is confident Wilson County is prepared.

“I have actually worked in a StormReady County after a hurricane in 2004 in Florida. After Hurricane Charley, they were impacted severely from the hurricane,” said Deno, who has been in Wilson for 21 years. “The StormReady designation shows that you take the extra effort to alert your citizens that you have systems in place to notify them. We do that and we've been doing that for a long time.”

Deno said the fact that Wilson County does not have the StormReady designation doesn't bother him one bit.

“We're above a lot of the other counties in this area as far as what those counties offer to their citizens,” Deno said.

Wake County has been designated “StormReady” for nearly a decade. Josh Creighton, the Wake County Emergency Manager, said, “We just had to process the paperwork, go through the peer review and get accredited by the National Weather Service for that designation, a lot of requirements we already had in place.”

Those requirements include six basic guidelines:

  • Emergency operations center
  • Receive National Weather Service warnings
  • Monitor county flood data
  • Disseminate warnings
  • Community outreach
  • Formal weather operations plan

Steve Naglic, of the South Carolina National Weather Service, said, “You need to get all the offices that serve your state and the state's emergency management community to come on board as there is a very significant time and work load demand in this type of undertaking.”

But it's not just time and money standing in the way.

“In this day and age of terrorism, a program like StormReady is going to take a back seat to counter terrorism programs and any other significant programs that emergency management deem a high priority,” Naglic said.

WNCN asked Mike Sprayberry, the director of the state's Emergency Management, why more of the state is not designated StormReady.

“I think most of our counties pretty much are already StormReady; it's just they don't have the designation,” he said.

As for why South Carolina seems to be ahead of North Carolina, Sprayberry said, “I wouldn't read too much into that. We're making progress. It's not overnight and I will tell you after I reviewed what it takes to get that status, most of our counties have what it takes. We think that with just a little push we can get there.”

Sprayberry has joined the advisory committee that hands out the StormReady designations in North Carolina. The state director of Emergency Management also pointed out that North Carolina was accredited by the National Emergency Management Accreditation Program in early October. 

The goal is to have all of central North Carolina StormReady in the next year to 18 months. But one point all officials made is it's vital for every family and home to have a plan for severe weather.

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