Evacuations may be ordered in South Kingstown as dangerous Hurricane Irene marches closer to New England, according to local officials.
“Obviously there will be an evacuation if the story continues, Rhode Island is ground zero at this point,” Town Manager Stephen Alfred said.
Alfred is the town’s municipal Emergency management Agency coordinator, and will be meeting with officials from the town’s police and fire departments, as well as town departments and officials at the South County Hospital to determine the official course of action in advance of Irene.
Once a formal evacation declaration is issued, the South Kingstown High School will serve as the Town's main emergency shelter according to the town's website. The Animal Shelter on Asa Pond Road (789-5515) is available if you need emergency shelter for your animal; current vaccination records are required.
“Four of the five models that National Weather Service uses are showing impact in Rhode Island, today they’ve shifted west a bit, it could be anywhere from eastern New York to Cape Cod, and because of the size of this we will be impacted,” said Lieutenant Colonel Denis Riel of the Rhode Island National Guard, who also serves as a media contact for the Rhode Island EMA.
Riel confirmed on Thursday morning that FEMA officials are in place in Rhode Island, and are advising state officials as the storm approaches. Currently Hurricane Irene is a dangerous category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 115 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Irene’s track suggests that it may strike the New England area with plenty of force, possibly as a tropical storm or as powerful as a category 2 hurricane.
“The early indications are that the first rain bands will be [arriving] Saturday after 3:00 p.m., a good deal of the pre planning in advance of the storm will be complete by Saturday. We’ll be making those decisions [today] and issuing the press release when it comes time."
Alfred said that the town will use its reverse 911 and Everbridge communication systems if necessary to notify individuals if they are in an evacuation zone.
“We will issue beach area warnings but our primary will be flyers going out indicating that the level of evacuation being required with instructive information for sheltering and what they should be bringing to the shelter, where it is, those types of things,” Alfred said.
Richard Collinson, Deputy Chief of the Union Fire District in South Kingstown, said that firefighters will be manning their stations throughout the duration of the storm to provide comprehensive fire coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, but are prepared to begin earlier if needed. At this time Collinson is the UFD’s top man due to the fact that Chief Robert Perry and Deputy Chiefs Quinn, Carney, and Pinch are in Georgia, where Perry was scheduled to receive his award after being named Volunteer Chief of the Year by Fire Chief Magazine.
“We’re at 100 percent, no doubt about it,” said Collinson. He added that the fire departments will know more after this afternoon’s meeting, and that they should expect Chief Perry back in town by midnight tonight. Still, Collinson warned that those in low-lying areas should be prepared to evacuate. .
“Remember, with the counterclockwise movement of the storm, if it hits Connecticut it will have a more profound impact on [us]," alfred said. "If it hits to the east of us you end up with a northeast wind that will be less disruptive but we will still see heavy rain.”
“The big message we’re trying to get with all emergency initiatives is that the primary responsibility is on the individual,” Reil said. “You should have a good response action plan in place that allows you to shelter in place for three to five days with no electricity or water.”
If Irene causes significant damage to the state, Riel said FEMA officials are prepared.
“Fema and RIEMA have been speaking in detail about response, and putting in place those precautionary memorandums of understanding so if it becomes a catastrophic event we can quickly leverage the resources that we need,” Riel said.