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Hospital prepares for possible flooding from Hurricane Florence

SALISBURY — People driving down Mocksville Avenue will see an unusual sight this week: a 2-and-a-half foot berm near Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

The berm, build of woven material, rock and sand, is just one step the hospital is taking to stave off flash flooding caused by rains from Hurricane Florence. In August, the hospital’s Wilson L. Smith Center entrance flooded during heavy rains, causing delays in patient care and damage to facilities.

“We’re still recovering from that flood,” said Gary Blabon, senior director of professional and support services for the hospital.

The hospital worked closely with the city of Salisbury and a team of civil engineers to design the berm and other flood-prevention measures. The berm runs along the sidewalk on Mocksville Avenue, close to the Wilson L. Smith Center entrance.

“So that’s the first line of defense, if you will,” Blabon said.

In addition to the berm, Novant Health placed sandbags around the Wilson L. Smith entrance and a 4-foot wall covered in water-resistant plastic. Lining the floors of the entrance is an absorbent material that Blabon said “will actually collect water and act as a dam.”

While Blabon and other administrators are preparing for the worst, they hope the precautions won’t be needed.

“It’s my hope that water won’t even reach the sandbags,” Blabon said.

But as the only hospital in Rowan County, an abundance of caution never hurts — especially with a hurricane on the horizon.

“We can’t shut, we can’t divert patients. We have to stay open,” Blabon said.

As Hurricane Florence draws closer to the Carolinas, the staff at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center is keeping a close eye on the forecast.

Additional nursing staff will be on call to take care of patients. The hospital’s public safety department staff is working double shifts, and the plant engineering staff will work staggered shifts to provide 24-hour care and maintenance to the building.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 




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