McDowell County began feeling the effects of Hurricane Irma today as rain and wind moved into the area.
According to the Foothills Weather Network’s (FWN) update on Monday afternoon, Irma, which was reduced from a Category 3 hurricane to a tropical storm, moved into the interior Southeast and was located near the Florida/Georgia state line at 17 mph at around 11 a.m. Irma produced sustained winds of up to 65 mph and continued to move through Georgia for the rest of the afternoon and is expected to bend back through East Central Alabama overnight.
As far as McDowell and western N.C., Irma’s effects were felt well away from the center of circulation, with light rainfall into the area and a gradual increase in scattered showers and of winds expected by early Monday evening. FWN predicted that by Tuesday morning, there would be an estimated one to three inches of rain in McDowell, with higher amounts into the eastern slopes, and sustained wind speeds up to 20 mph with gusts between 40 to 50 mph. These conditions could lead the way to potential flash flooding, power outages and landslides.
Multiple agencies took precaution for Irma heading into the weekend, with crews pre-staging food, water and other supplies throughout McDowell for operational readiness. On Monday morning, an Incident Management Team (IMT) met in the new Emergency Operators Center in the old Universal plant building to continuously monitor conditions.
According to the team’s Public Information Officer Richelle Bailey, while the storm had yet to hit McDowell by their afternoon update, residual effects such as the increasing wind and rain levels needed to be taken into consideration.
“We are concerned about flash flooding and trees and power lines coming down later this evening,” said Bailey on Monday afternoon. “Members of Foothills Weather, as well as an employee with the American Red Cross, are embedded with the McDowell County IMT. Foothills Weather is keeping everyone updated on the latest weather models, and the Red Cross stands ready in case shelters need to be opened.”
Prior to the storm crossing state lines, Gov. Roy Cooper has made clear that although a direct hit from the storm was unlikely, North Carolinians needed to be prepared for any such conditions such as heavy rain and wind gusts.
“We’re grateful that the brunt of the storm will miss us, but our entire state will see some impacts from Irma and especially Western North Carolina,” Cooper said in a press release on Monday. “Things are looking better for North Carolina, but we’re not out of the woods yet and we don’t want any surprises.”
In preparation for the inclement weather, McDowell County Schools announced Monday afternoon that all school-based evening activities were postponed. After school student care and the monthly Board of Education meeting continued, with Central Office monitoring the conditions and offering to adjust schedules as needed.