BOONE — While Hurricane Dorian’s powerful winds and rains are expected to mostly miss the High Country, the impending natural disaster could affect the region in terms of lodging and disaster response.
The storm, as of 2 p.m. on Sept. 3, was slowly moving northwest from the northernmost islands of the Bahamas and is expected to hug the East Coast going from southern Florida to the Outer Banks into Friday and Saturday, maintaining hurricane strength for the week.
According to the National Weather Service’s forecast for Boone on Thursday, Sept. 5, there is a chance of showers between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., then a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m, with a north wind 7-10 mph and a 30 percent chance of precipitation.
With minimal impacts locally but a grim weather outlook in coastal regions of North and South Carolina, High Country Host Marketing Director Candice Cook said the visitor center has already received calls from people seeking to avoid the hurricane’s path.
“I’ve had a few phone calls today,” Cook said on Sept. 3. “With it not being a direct hit, there’s not as many calls as last year (for Hurricane Florence).”
Cook said many of the questions have been if local lodging partners are offering discounts or free rooms to evacuees, including if hotels are pet-friendly and if cabins are potentially available for the long term, as well as campgrounds.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service have waived fees at campgrounds in the Southern Region for people displaced by Hurricane Dorian, including campgrounds in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.
Watauga County Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Wright Tilley said that he hasn’t had an uptick in calls, but said Visit N.C. has seen an increase statewide.
One factor that could lead evacuees elsewhere is Appalachian State’s home football game on Saturday, Sept. 7. With more than 20,000 fans attending each home game, local hotel rooms and cabins typically fill up months in advance. Tilley said that last year, evacuees of Hurricane Florence couldn’t find lodging in the High Country due to ASU’s home football game. When the game was called off days beforehand and many reservations were canceled, Tilley said many evacuees had already found accommodations elsewhere.
Cook encourages people looking to find accommodations for themselves, family members or friends to contact High Country Host at www.highcountryhost.com or (828) 264-1299. The High Country Host center is located at 6370 U.S. 321 South, Blowing Rock.
Samaritan’s Purse responds
Boone-based Christian relief charity Samaritan’s Purse said on Sept. 3 that it is prepared to send tons of emergency relief to the Bahamas aboard its jet “as soon as feasible.”
“The plane is expected to carry emergency shelter material, household water filters and two community filtration units that turn saltwater into drinking water,” Samaritan’s Purse said in a Sept. 3 statement. “More than a dozen disaster response team specialists are also scheduled to travel.”
The Bahamas have suffered for several days as Hurricane Dorian stalled over the islands, bringing flooding and sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts of up to 225 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of mid-day Sept. 3, more than 13,000 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, according to the International Red Cross, with the death toll so far at five people.
Once the storm passes through the East Coast, Samaritan’s Purse said it will send its personnel to afflicted areas as soon as allowed.
“Once given access to damaged areas, volunteer teams will assist with clearing debris and downed trees, tarping roofs and cleaning out flooded U.S. homes. In addition to disaster relief units (stocked tractor trailers), supply trailers and heavy equipment are also on standby,” Samaritan’s Purse said.