Gaston County braces for flooding, Ashbrook HS opens as shelter

- At a Friday conference call with FEMA, federal officials warned of widespread power outages, tree damage and "a lot of urban flooding issues."

"Heavy rain, flash flooding, still a major threat for the area," FEMA told Gaston County officials.

Eric Hendrix, the interim Gaston County emergency management coordinator and fire marshal, said they are "absolutely serious" about preparing.

Hendrix warns it could take days for power to be restored.  

"Trying to be prepared for anything it throws at us," said Hendrix.

Officials worry what will be thrown at them is rain and flooding. With winds picking up, all eyes are on neighboring rivers in Cramerton, like the South Fork Catawba River, which officials say, has flooded before. 

"Be prepared so that you don't become part of the rescue situation," said Hendrix, who urges residents to stay away from low lying areas once water levels start to rise. 

At the emergency management command, ambulances and a rescue support unit, are being prepared.

"Flooding's a big concern for us," said Deputy Chief of Gaston County EMS James McConnell. 

McConnell showed FOX 46 the inside of the rescue vehicle which is equipped with dive and swiftwater rescue gear. 

Equipment he hopes won't be needed. 

"If the roadway starts to flood," McConnell warned, "turn around, don't drown."

A few miles away, Ashbrook High School opened up as a shelter at 5 p.m. Friday. The school can shelter at least 500 people and their pets displaced from the storm due to flood waters or home damage. 

The school will stay open as long as needed. 

"We want residents to take this storm absolutely seriously," said Hendrix. 

Click here for information related to Florence specific to Gaston County

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