WNC emergency responders ready as snowstorm approaches

In just a few hours, a major storm will hit the mountains, and emergency responders are getting ready to tackle the sort of severe situation many have never seen. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

In just a few hours, a major storm will hit the mountains, and emergency responders are getting ready to tackle the sort of severe situation many have never seen.

Henderson County's emergency services headquarters is so new some folks are still settling in. And they're not the only ones.

It was just Monday night that Lowell Griffin was sworn in as Henderson County sheriff. Here we are four nights later and he already has a potential disaster on his hands.

Griffin said his office is coordinating with all other first-response agencies across Henderson County and everyone is counting on the public for help during what will be a challenging few days.

Of course, a lot will depend on just how much snow and how bad the weather gets.

"If folks really have an emergency, we'll be out there in full force doing our best to get to them," Henderson County Rescue Squad chief Jimmy Brissie said. "But with these kinds of conditions, there are going to be delays in responses, and we would just encourage folks to be as prepared as they can to take care of themselves."

"My obvious hope is that we get far less than what's predicted, it makes our job a whole lot easier," Griffin said. "But we're going to be prepared to tackle whatever comes our way."

Authorities said transportation is major issue -- one of the primary concerns not only for public safety but also first-responders who will be trying to get where they need to go to serve a county of more than 100,000 people.

The situation is much the same in Buncombe County, where emergency officials are also trying to make sure they're ready.

The 911 center is the clearing house for all calls, people requesting police, fire or medical help. It is also a place where problems can be identified -- trends in power outages, people stuck in cars, where accidents are tying up everything.

Emergency dispatchers will stay on the job as long as necessary.

"We will have adequate staffing and be able to change shifts, but if people need to stay there and sleep, we've got that capability, also," Buncombe County EOC director Jerry Vehaun said.

He said the obvious hope is that this storm is not as severe as the Blizzard of '93, when people had to be rescued from their homes, from their cars on the interstates and the region was paralyzed for more than 72 hours.

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