Natural Disasters

Hurricane Florencec churns off the North Carolina coast./Sasa Kadrijevic via NASA (Shutterstock.com.)

Continuing coverage: Courts in the Carolinas and Virginia are announcing closings as a downgraded but still dangerous Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday morning in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Disaster Response Resources

Volunteering Opportunities

North Carolina attorneys can find info on volunteering on the North Carolina Bar‘s Hurricane Florence page.

South Carolina attorneys can volunteer for the South Carolina Bar‘s disaster relief legal service hotline by filling out this form.

Not licensed in those states but looking to donate your time or money? Check out ambar.org/DisasterRelief.

ABA Journal Coverage

Disaster Helplines

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters.

For low-income individuals with disaster-related legal needs, the following phone numbers are available:
North Carolina residents: 1-833-242-3549
South Carolina residents: 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120

As of Friday afternoon local time, courts in 73 of the state’s 100 counties are closed or scheduled to close, the North Carolina Judicial branch reports. Judicial branch tweets listed here indicate that affected courts will be closed through Friday, and courts and offices in some counties will also be closed Monday.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm late Friday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. A forecast map shows that the storm is expected to weaken as it continues to move inland across northern and central South Carolina, western North Carolina and into the Ohio Valley. The New York Times reports four people died, including a mother and infant, as a result of the storm.

A tweet from the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center says parts of the Carolinas could receive 40 inches of rain.

South Carolina’s chief justice, Donald Beatty, warned of possible closings of government offices, including courts. Beatty said county chief judges could direct that certain matters go forward despite closures or delays, and should conduct bond hearings at least once a day, if conditions are safe to do so.

Judges assigned to counties operating as normal should be flexible in granting continuances to attorneys and parties who experience personal issues caused by the weather conditions that prevent their appearance in court, Beatty said.

A Sept. 11 order by Beatty said courts would be closed in counties where state government offices were not operating. As of Thursday morning, state offices were closed in 18 South Carolina counties, according to the state’s emergency management division website. Tweets are available here.

The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts on Wednesday announced the closings of multiple federal courthouses and advised checking district websites for more information.

Five courthouses were closed in the Eastern District of North Carolina, two courthouses were closed in the District of South Carolina, and two courthouses were closed the Eastern District of Virginia. Updates are being posted on Twitter.

Virginia has also announced court closings here.

Law schools are also announcing closings, Law.com reports. They include the Charleston School of Law, the University of South Carolina School of Law, the University of North Carolina School of Law and North Carolina Central University School of Law.

The ABA Law Practice Division, meanwhile, sent an email to ABA members who live in areas that could be affected by the hurricane. The email linked to online disaster resources.

The division offers several tips, including these:

• Keep an emergency contact list on paper and in the cloud that can be accessed by a computer or phone.

• Back up information in the cloud and test it to make sure it is working. If you have backup on external hard drives or flash drives, they may be safe in the dishwasher. You can also carry a waterproof flash drive in a waterproof bag.

• Use an email service that retains email for delivery when power is restored.

• Banks may be closed for a while, so keep some cash and critical documents in a waterproof safe. Consider offering advances to employees to help them recover from a disaster.

• Consider buying a generator.

• Keep important electronic devices on “uninterruptible power supply” to prevent damages from surges and outages.

• Remote wipe laptops and mobile devices lost in a disaster. They should also be encrypted.