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Severe Weather

NC Prepares for Irene

By Michelle Bliss

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/whqr/local-whqr-983344.mp3

Wilmington, NC – As the East Coast waits to see if and where Hurricane Irene will make landfall, North Carolina emergency officials are gearing up for several scenarios. WHQR's Michelle Bliss reports that Governor Bev Perdue has the National Guard on standby as communities prepare for what is now a Category 3 storm.

Ocracoke residents began evacuating the small barrier island Wednesday morning, while others across the state are stocking up on essentials and moving dangerous projectiles like lawn furniture indoors.

Irene's path remains uncertain, but Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Anthony Marzano says the storm's effects will still be felt in North Carolina even if it's not a direct hit.

"Although the track continues to move to the east, Irene is a major storm, a very large storm that covers a large area, so we don't want to focus just on that little thin, black line and all those little dots. We need to be looking several hundred miles to either side where we could experience tropical storm force or hurricane force winds."

Forecasts show that North Carolina's coast will be spared the right side of the storm where Marzano says wind speeds and tornado threats are traditionally greatest.

In case Marzano's department needs to open shelters, evacuate homes, or perform dangerous rescues, county staff members are taking an inventory of high clearance vehicles able to reach flooded areas and Brunswick's swift water rescue team is on standby.

If wind speeds are too high, Marzano says that first responders may be unable to reach those in need, if those residents stay behind during an evacuation.

"The folks that stay behind, could get flooded in, and if they have an emergency and they may be able to make contact with 911, unfortunately, we may not have anyone we can send to them. And that's really a bad scenario for everyone involved."

Marzano says he's concerned about some residents' complacency as Irene approaches and warns that even though the storm's path is veering eastward, Irene will bring heavy winds and flooding to several hundred surrounding miles.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.