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3 ways local residents are helping as ‘life-threatening’ Florence strengthens

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the east coast, Ohioans are helping to head off damage and preparing to respond to it once the storm makes landfall later this week.

MORE: Hurricane Scale: What is the difference between a Category 1-5

Here are three ways local residents are helping to stem the damage:

1. Butler County crews ready to deploy

Emergency crews from Butler County are ready for a possible deployment to Virginia to help if that state is hit by Florence, Morgan Twp. Fire Chief Jeff Galloway told the Journal-News.

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While there is no specific mission assigned yet, the Butler County Emergency Management Agency is “ramping up” in preparation for landfall from Florence, he said.

“Virginia has requested five Incident Management Teams trained and qualified under the FEMA national standards, and we are filling out the necessary paperwork to deploy,” Galloway said.

This will not be the first time the team has been deployed to national disasters. As one of only a few accredited agencies in the state, the Butler County Incident Management Team responded last year when Irma hit Florida and when hurricanes Irene and Sandy hit the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Ross Twp. Fire Chief Steve Miller said the team’s trailer was packed Tuesday with supplies for the 16 or 17 people who plan to make the trek.

When asked if he was nervous about potentially heading into the eye of a monster storm, he said: “We run head on into fires every day so it’s kind of what we do.”

Florence has the strength of a Category 4 storm and was about 400 miles south of Bermuda early Tuesday. It’s expected to make landfall in the U.S. sometime Thursday and the National Hurricane Center has already posted hurricane and storm surge watches along the east coast from Edisto Beach, South Carolina north to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

MORE: Hurricane Florence: Category 4 storm increasing in size

The main impact from Hurricane Florence is likely to be life-threatening storm surge, Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini said. Inland parts of certain states could also face flooding from rain as Florence moves slowly onto land and weakens.

Zontini said the hurricane likely will make its presence felt in Ohio, but less certain is exactly when and how. Forecast models have had “a tough time with what happens once Florence makes landfall.”

Some models have rain from Florence arriving in here late Sunday, and others say that could come Monday or Tuesday, Zontini said. She favors the late Sunday model now, but added, “We’ll have to watch where it steers.”

Zontini did not expect this area to feel any significant winds, noting that unlike storms that come up through the Gulf of Mexico, an East Coast storm loses steam because of the Appalachian Mountains.

2. Power restoration crews go to Carolinas

In advance of the hurricane, Duke Energy said it is moving power restoration crews from its Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida utilities so that they are staged in the Carolinas and ready to help the company’s regional crews restore power as soon as it is safe to do so, the utility said late Monday.

In addition, line technicians and workers are checking equipment, supplies and inventories to ensure adequate materials are available to make repairs and restore power outages.

MORE: Butler County emergency crews prepare for Hurricane Florence duty

Duke Energy is one of the largest U.S. electric companies with nearly $138 billion in assets. The company services about 7.6 million customers across six states, including Southwestern Ohio.

“Restoring power after a massive storm can be extremely challenging for utility repair crews, as travel and work conditions can be impacted by high winds and widespread flooding — making repair work lengthy and difficult,” Duke warned.

3. Water rescue team travels to North Carolina

Members of an Ohio Task Force 1 team have departed from their Dayton-area headquarters and are on the way to Kinston, North Carolina in preparation for landfall from Hurricane Florence.

Monday night, the smaller 16-person team called a “Water Rescue Package” was activated and assigned to North Carolina in anticipation for the major hurricane, Phil Sinewe, public information officer for Ohio Task Force 1 said Tuesday.

The team will include a water rescue manager, two water rescue squad officers, four boat operators, five water rescue specialists, logistics and medical specialists and two support specialists.

MORE: Ohio Task Force 1 team deploys to North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence

While the WRP is the only team currently requested from Ohio Task Force 1 to respond, the team is preparing for the possibility of another WRP or a full Type 1 team that could be dispatched to areas impacted by Hurricane Florence, Sinewe said.

“The best way to think of (the Water Rescue Package) is a much quicker water strike team,” Sinewe said.

Staff writer Tom Gnau contributed to this report.

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