The North Carolina coast is one of the most beautiful places in the country. But during hurricane season, our beloved coastal areas can become one of the most terrifying places on Earth.
By now you’ve heard that a Category 4 hurricane has developed in the Caribbean Sea and is expected to follow the familiar Atlantic pattern of travelling straight up the Eastern Seaboard.
Hurricane Matthew, at one point achieving Category 5 strength, has already pounded Haiti and Cuba with punishing 145 mph winds and is expected to track north along the east coast at 10 miles per hour all the way from Miami, Florida, to the New Jersey shore. As of Wednesday morning, the storm had been downgraded to Category 3.
In preparation for this intense and potentially deadly weather system making its way towards the North Carolina coast, Governor Pat McCrory has declared parts of North Carolina to be in a State of Emergency. The declaration issued by the governor’s Executive Order on Monday, October 3rd, covers 66 counties in Central and Eastern North Carolina.
People may think it’s silly to declare a State of Emergency when the storm hasn’t even hit. But the official declaration of a State of Emergency triggers statutory law that gives rise to sweeping executive powers to command and dispatch vast resources, and exercise extraordinary police powers to ensure order, public safety and well-being, and the continuity of services and supplies. It only makes sense to allow for preparations well in advance of an impending catastrophic natural disaster. Those executive powers are detailed below.
State law authorizes the Governor or the General Assembly to declare a defined area to be in a State of Emergency declaration in order to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be necessary to properly respond to the storm.
North Carolina General Statute 166A-19.30(a) details the Governor’s powers under a declared State of Emergency. Under the law, the Governor shall have the following powers:
- To utilize all available State resources as reasonably necessary to cope with an emergency, including the transfer and direction of personnel or functions of State agencies or units thereof for the purpose of performing or facilitating emergency services.
- To take such action and give such directions to State and local law enforcement officers and agencies as may be reasonable and necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with the provisions of this Article and with the orders, rules, and regulations made pursuant thereto.
- To take steps to assure that measures, including the installation of public utilities, are taken when necessary to qualify for temporary housing assistance from the federal government when that assistance is required to protect the public health, welfare, and safety.
- Subject to the provisions of the State Constitution, to relieve any public official having administrative responsibilities under this Article of such responsibilities for willful failure to obey an order, rule, or regulation adopted pursuant to this Article.
- Through issuance of an Executive Order, to waive requirements for an environmental document or permit issued under Articles 1, 4, and 7 of Chapter 113A of the General Statutes for the repair, protection, safety enhancement, or replacement of a component of the State highway system that provides the sole road access to an incorporated municipality or an unincorporated inhabited area bordering the Atlantic Ocean or any coastal sound where bridge or road conditions as a result of the events leading to the declaration of the state of emergency pose a substantial risk to public health, safety, or welfare.
Furthermore, General Statute 166A-19.30(b) gives the Governor these additional powers during a declared State of Emergency. Under this section of the law, the Governor shall have the following powers::
- To direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the State, to prescribe routes, modes of transportation, and destinations in connection with evacuation; and to control ingress and egress of an emergency area, the movement of persons within the area, and the occupancy of premises therein.
- To establish a system of economic controls over all resources, materials, and services to include food, clothing, shelter, fuel, rents, and wages, including the administration and enforcement of any rationing, price freezing, or similar federal order or regulation.
- To regulate and control the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, the congregation of persons in public places or buildings, lights and noises of all kinds, and the maintenance, extension, and operation of public utility and transportation services and facilities.
- To waive a provision of any regulation or ordinance of a State agency or a political subdivision which restricts the immediate relief of human suffering.
- To perform and exercise such other functions, powers, and duties as are necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.
- To appoint or remove an executive head of any State agency or institution, the executive head of which is regularly selected by a State board or commission.
- Such an acting executive head will serve during the following:
- The physical or mental incapacity of the regular office holder, as determined by the Governor after such inquiry as the Governor deems appropriate.
- The continued absence of the regular holder of the office.
- A vacancy in the office pending selection of a new executive head.
- An acting executive head of a State agency or institution appointed in accordance with this subdivision may perform any act and exercise any power which a regularly selected holder of such office could lawfully perform and exercise.
- All powers granted to an acting executive head of a State agency or institution under this section shall expire immediately:
- Upon the termination of the incapacity as determined by the Governor of the officer in whose stead the Governor acts;
- Upon the return of the officer in whose stead the Governor acts; or
- Upon the selection and qualification of a person to serve for the unexpired term, or the selection of an acting executive head of the agency or institution by the board or commission authorized to make such selection, and the person’s qualification.
- Such an acting executive head will serve during the following:
- To procure, by purchase, condemnation, seizure, or by other means to construct, lease, transport, store, maintain, renovate, or distribute materials and facilities for emergency management without regard to the limitation of any existing law.
If the Governor determines that local control of the emergency is insufficient to assure adequate protection for lives and property, General Statute 166A-19.30(c) gives the Governor the following powers during a declared State of Emergency:
- To impose by declaration prohibitions and restrictions in the emergency area. These prohibitions and restrictions may, in the Governor’s discretion, as appropriate to deal with the emergency, impose any of the types of prohibitions and restrictions enumerated in G.S. 166A-19.31(b), and may amend or rescind any prohibitions and restrictions imposed by local authorities. Prohibitions and restrictions imposed pursuant to this subdivision shall take effect in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 166A-19.31(d) and shall expire upon the earliest occurrence of either of the following: (i) the prohibition or restriction is terminated by the Governor or (ii) the state of emergency is terminated.
- Give to all participating State and local agencies and officers such directions as may be necessary to assure coordination among them. These directions may include the designation of the officer or agency responsible for directing and controlling the participation of all public agencies and officers in the emergency. The Governor may make this designation in any manner which, in the Governor’s discretion, seems most likely to be effective. Any law enforcement officer participating in the control of a state of emergency in which the Governor is exercising control under this section shall have the same power and authority as a sheriff throughout the territory to which the law enforcement officer is assigned.
North Carolina has one of the country’s best response teams, Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry said. It has been tested repeatedly over the past few weeks, but our colleagues are ready to respond as called. Meanwhile, we urge residents and visitors to recheck your emergency plans, restock your emergency kits, and pay close attention in the coming days to the weather forecast and any instructions from local officials. Also, be sure to keep in touch with your family, friends and neighbors to let them know you’re safe.
You can follow North Carolina Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on Hurricane Matthew. You can also get real-time traffic and weather on the ReadyNC mobile app. Please follow National Hurricane Center online for up-to-date information on the storm’s progress and your local news station for preparedness information.
More on Hurricane Matthew
Meteorologists and State officials are warning of a direct hit accompanied by heavy rainfall, gusty winds, storm surges, extensive flooding, and sudden mudslides that could devastate many coastal communities.
Matthew is the most powerful Atlantic storm since Category Five Felix in 2007. In 1996, Hurricane Fran pummeled our coastline with 12-foot storm surges and left $2.4 billion in damage to North Carolina in its wake. Three years later, Category Four Hurricane Floyd took 57 lives in total.
Governor McCrory urges residents to plan now as the state prepares for major impacts from Matthew. With each subsequent forecast, the impacts to our state appear to be more substantial, Governor McCrory cautioned on Tuesday. “I cannot stress enough how critical it is that all of our residents in central and eastern North Carolina begin preparations for their families and homes,” urged Governor McCrory. “For those residents in the eastern parts of the state, it is especially critical that you update your emergency supply kits in case you need to evacuate and always follow the directions of your local emergency officials.”
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says she plans evacuation ahead of Hurricane Matthew to get one million people away from coast. Evacuation of portions of the North Carolina Outer Banks began Tuesday, October 4th.
“Hurricane Matthew is a powerful and large hurricane that has the potential to create devastating impacts even if it hits North Carolina with a glancing blow,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “Our federal, state and local partners are coordinating to ensure our state is adequately prepared for Matthew’s impacts and we urge North Carolinians to prepare at home, too.”