Late Wednesday night, Governor Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for all counties east of Interstate 95 in North Carolina to allow time to prepare and evacuate for Hurricane Irene.
Western North Carolina is not expected to be detrimentally affected by Irene. Although western counties may experience high winds and intermittent rain showers, the negative impact of Irene will predominately be localized to areas adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
Thursday morning the National Weather Service issued a Hurricane Watch for the NC coastline from Surf City (Pender and Onslow counties) all the way to the Virginia Boarder.
Perdue is urging President Obama to consider declaring a “pre-landfall” emergency declaration for the state in order to provide federal assistance for response efforts.
Although Hurricane Irene is not expected to make landfall on the North Carolina coast until 8 a.m. Saturday morning, initial rain bands have already began rotating into the Carolinas, bringing rain and tropical force winds.
U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (NC) supported Governor Perdue's request to President Obama for a state of emergency declaration for North Carolina counties expected to be hit by Hurricane Irene. “I am extremely concerned about the possible personal safety risks to thousands of North Carolinians and visitors in the state,” wrote Hagan in a letter to President Obama. “In addition, it is expected that there will be extensive environmental damage and property destruction from Hurricane Irene respectfully request that you make the necessary state of emergency declaration so that the areas of North Carolina expected to be most affected can quickly prepare for, and fully recover from, Hurricane Irene.” Hurricane Irene is projected to make landfall late Saturday afternoon near Ocracoke as a category four storm. Tropical storm force winds and rain showers are anticipated to begin late Friday afternoon and could increase to hurricane force winds by late Saturday.
Rainfall amounts are projected to be greatest east of I-95, specifically near the coast, where more than six inches of rain are possible. Another major concern is the possibility of a storm surge of several feet along the entire coast. Central parts of the state are likely to experience localized rainfall amounts of more than two inches. All areas east of I-95 have the potential for the worst wind, but gusts of 40 miles per hour are possible along the central parts of the state as the outer bands move through during Irene.
“Hurricane Irene poses a significant threat to our state,” Perdue said in a press release from her office on Thursday morning, “and we need to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors, along with property and infrastructure along our coast.” By declaring a state of emergency in North Carolina, officials are authorized to respond more effectively to the emergency by authorizing additional state government resources to assist county and municipal governments. Because of the proclamation, the governor has expanded powers to address all aspects of the emergency, including the authority to use state resources needed to respond to the situation.
The American Red Cross is sending volunteers to North Carolina and South Carolina, and moving feeding trucks and communication equipment to East Coast states. Local Red Cross Chapters are also getting ready for sheltering efforts.
Evacuations began yesterday for visitors to Ocracoke Island. As of this morning, residents of all of Hyde County and visitors to Dare County will begin the evacuation process.