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Asheville a staging point for hurricane response

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P-BUNC IRMA CONCERNS.transfer_frame_857.jpg

Gov. Roy Cooper talked about the ongoing state of emergency Friday, pointing out the Asheville area as one of the staging points for hurricane response.

Buncombe County operates North Carolina Task Force 2, an operation headquartered near Erwin High School, and that group is ready to go.

Monday morning is go-time, when Task Force 2 may be called on to help respond to whatever part of the storm makes it to the mountains and beyond.

"When you have a situation like that, it doesn't stop at a state line," Emergency Services Director Jerry Vehaun said. "A storm that comes in between Tallahassee (Florida) and Mobile, Alabama, then two-days later we get a lot of rainfall. That's what happened to us with Ivan and Fran."

Vehaun has seen his share of what storms might do. Right now, Hurricane Irma's path is uncertain. But his team is ready.

"Whether they go to Tennessee, whether they go to Shelby, or Hickory or down into South Carolina, wherever they may be needed."

Local 911 dispatchers are also likely to have some busy days ahead.

John Sparks has been answering the call for 17 years and knows you have to avoid distraction.

"Your family's always in the back of your mind on what's going on, but you know, you just have to do what you need to do protect them and the public," Sparks said.

The tools of the trade -- from rescue boats to what might be needed if the worst happens -- are loaded and ready to go. It's all part of a risky job.

"That's just part of it, and that's the nature of the beast. That's why people get in, just to help people and make a difference," task force leader Johnny Wilson said. "Up here, whenever we have flash floods, it's really moving." 4655

Crew leader Allen Morgan, who worked Hurricane Matthew along the coast last year, helped with more than 200 rescues. His goals are simple.

"My hope is that everybody's safe, and there's no casualties and we make it through Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, and we can all go back to our family," Morgan said.

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