The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 27th

Hurricane Irene could hit North Carolina Saturday

Storm preparations and evacuations are beginning across the state.

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With Hurricane Irene expected to hit the state on Saturday, UNC-Wilmington junior sociology major Bailey Parker is preparing for the worst.

“We bought a lot of canned foods because the microwave won’t work if the power’s out, like Chef Boyardee, corn, black beans,” she said. “We took everything off our porch, and we’re thinking about going home or coming to Chapel Hill.”

While students are packing the essentials for waiting out the storm or making plans to leave, Hurricane Irene is heading North Carolina’s way. By the time it hits, it is expected to be a category-3 hurricane with about 110 mile-per-hour winds, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

“We do expect this hurricane to have an impact,” he said. “Even if it just skirts the coast, its impact will be far inland.”

He said the recent rain could make flooding a problem in the area. Because the ground is saturated, it could also make trees more likely to fall.

Feltgen advised people to prepare with food, water and medicine in case power is unavailable.

Gov. Bev Perdue said she has taken precautions as well, and the state’s response system is ready and well-equipped for the situation.

But she said North Carolinians — and tourists — should not pack their bags just yet.

The storm was expected to land near Wilmington, according to early forecasts, but later predictions pointed it further east. The paths of hurricanes are constantly changing, and it’s too soon to know exactly where it will hit, Feltgen said.

Until it’s more definite, Perdue said North Carolina is open for business.

“Let’s please not try to dampen the enthusiasm for our state in the last 10 days of tourism season,” she said.

State Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell said federal officials should arrive Wednesday, and the state’s emergency operations center will open Thursday.

Local governments in the state can decide to issue evacuation orders, and Ocracoke is beginning that process. The island can take up to two days to empty, so early evacuation was a necessary precaution, Perdue said.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has also made plans, said Jerry Brewer, the public information officer. He said there will be increased patrolling on the streets.

“You can’t wait until the last minute to plan for these things,” he said.

Perdue didn’t have a number for how much is available in the budget for disaster response, but she said the budget strain would not impede the recovery process.

“Whatever’s in the budget, we will be able to do what we need to do,” she said.

In the past, the state has turned to its rainy-day fund for disaster response, and it is expected to do the same for Hurricane Irene, said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for N.C. Emergency Management.

The federal government could also step in to help bear the financial burden. If the damage is deemed a federal disaster, the government typically pays 75 percent of clean-up costs, Jarema said.

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