RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina leaders are closely monitoring Hurricane Irma and adjusting plans for how to handle the storm’s impact here.
Efforts are starting to focus more on western North Carolina. The latest models are sparing the eastern part of the state from Irma’s direct path, but Gov. Roy Cooper is still urging everyone to keep preparing.
“We want people to be ready as well, ready with their evacuation routes, ready with their emergency kits, continuing to check local weather,” said Cooper.
Emergency operations leaders are moving resources to the western part of the state, anticipating the most damage there.
“Our current plan is now to focus on two staging areas in Asheville and Greensboro.
These staging areas will be activated on Sunday the 10th of September,” said Mike Sprayberry, director of Emergency Management.
Sprayberry says 315 National Guard members are mobilizing, and they have the option to request more. They’re also staying in touch with officials in every county and keeping tabs on localized efforts.
“We are prepared to engage in mass sheltering and feeding operations. Our Duke Energy and Electric Co-op partners are prepared to surge into effected areas to engage in power restoration activities as soon as the storm passes,” said Sprayberry.
As Irma strengthened, managers at Duke Energy’s Harris nuclear power plant began to plan in case the storm impacts our area.
Irma’s path has shifted away from central North Carolina, but people at the plant are still taking precautions.
While Duke’s meteorologists tracked the storm, employees ensured equipment is secure. The containment buildings have reinforced concrete and steel.
There are additional staff members on call this weekend in case the storm’s path shifts.
Brandon Thomas, a spokesman for the plant, says employees go through additional training to prepare for hurricanes and other events.
“Nuclear plants are some of the most robust facilities in the U.S. infrastructure. They’re built to withstand any sort of weather event,” he said.
NCDOT says traffic is congested on routes like Interstates 77, 26 and 95, but it’s flowing smoothly for now. Road construction projects will stop Friday night to make way for any more drivers fleeing the storm.
“All roadwork will be stopped as of 7 p.m. tonight. They’re seeing an increase of the number of people traveling south to north on our interstate highways. We want to make sure that it’s clear for evacuation,” said Cooper.
The state is posting its latest updates and information on how you can prepare at readync.org.
The state does not have a massive plan that would overhaul transportation, as we’ve seen in places like South Carolina. But, they are standing by to help more people get to safer ground if necessary.
Irma evacuees from Florida and other states may make travel tricky for people here. NCDOT is watching the roads closely, prepared to detour traffic if needed.
“There are alternative routes that we will get the message out to use those alternative routes,” said Tim Little with NCDOT.
Sprayberry says if you need to flee the storm, pay attention to directions from your local officials.
“The local authorities for each jurisdiction are going to instruct their residents how to evacuate,” said Sprayberry.
But for now, NCDOT is preparing most of its resources to focus on western North Carolina, which according to current models, may take the bigger hit from Irma.
“The part in the west we’re most concerned about is possible rock slides, mud slides in the mountain area,” said Little.
NCDOT recommends you pay attention to their travel information management system, or TIMS. Data on traffic or accidents collected by TIMS is also shared with popular GPS apps like Google or Apple Maps to keep you updated on the latest information.