As discussion of Hurricane Irma moves into the weekend, local and state agencies make final preparations for inclement weather and potential damage.
According to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) National Hurricane Center, Irma, now deemed a Category 4 hurricane as of Friday’s update, is expected to produce very heavy rain and inland flooding. Total rain accumulations of up to four to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of 20 inches, are expected over the Florida peninsula over the weekend.
On early Thursday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for all 100 counties as North Carolina prepares for near certain impact.
"Wherever you live in North Carolina – from the mountains to the piedmont to the coast – you need to take this storm seriously, and you need to start preparing for some type of impact,” said Cooper.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Southern Region of the USFS is immediately waiving fees and making all campgrounds available for individuals displaced by recent and forthcoming hurricanes such as Irma. Please call ahead or check websites to determine what is open and available. Individuals requesting campsites must check in with the campground host at each site.
As for McDowell and Western N.C., Irma will likely bring periods of heavy rain between Monday and Tuesday afternoon, including some mountainous areas more prone to flash flooding. According to the Foothills Weather Network (FWN), current model estimates suggest that winds of 25 to 40 mph may be possible Monday night, with some areas possibly seeing gusts up to 55 mph. These winds, along with heavy rain, may force some trees to fall.
Despite inclement conditions, FWN has advised citizens to stay calm, while still remaining vigilant and having a plan in place in case foul weather sets in over this coming week.
Local emergency agencies have been taking precaution with Irma as early as last Tuesday. Emergency Services Director William Kehler said his agency has been reviewing preparedness items, communicating with partner agencies, communicating with critical healthcare facilities and reviewing documentation from Hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004.
“McDowell EM will continue to coordinate with our local partners, as well as state and federal agencies to ensure we are prepared and ready to respond should Irma impact our area,” said Kehler. “As always with any high impact weather event, our first priority is to protect life and ensure the safety of emergency personnel.”