UPDATE: Gov. Cooper announces preparations for expected Hurricane Irma impacts

State of Emergency declared for all 100 counties as Hurricane Irma expected to impact North Carolina after initial landfall in Florida

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh about North Carolina's preparedness for any threat from Hurricane Irma, Thursday, September 7, 2017. Cooper declared a state of emergency this morning to activate response crews for the forecast of tropical storm or hurricane weather to impact Monday into Tuesday. (Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper held a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center noon Thursday to update the public about the threat of severe weather from Hurricane Irma expected early next week and described preparations state government is making to respond.

“I want to continue to stress that this storm could impact any part of North Carolina, all over our state fro the mountains to the coast,” said Cooper. “That is why I declared a state of emergency effective 8:00 AM this morning for all 100 counties. We’re preparing resources; we’re putting response crews on standby; we’re positioning resources across the state once we know where the most serious impacts will be.”

A representative from the National Weather Service, Nick Petro, gave the latest on Hurricane Irma’s track and how it will affect North Carolina.

“The forecast is becoming clearer that North Carolina will see significant tropical storm or hurricane impacts Monday into Tuesday,” said Petro. “So North Carolinians should be ready; ready for heavy rain and inland wind damage that could result in downed trees and extended power outages. “Localized flash flooding in the typical flood-prone areas – that’s expected. However, longer lasting widespread flooding like we experienced last year with [Hurricane] Matthew is not expected at this time.”

Petro explained that the risk of long lasting and widespread flooding is reduced because of the expected speed of the storm as it transits the Carolinas.

Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry provided information on his division’s preparations for whatever impact the storm may bring. According to Sprayberry, the full spectrum of disaster response resources are being made available, with staging areas being organized in Kinston, Greensboro, and Asheville. Resources will include search and rescue teams, hazardous material teams, and aviation teams.  All North Carolina teams deployed to Texas to help with disaster response there have since returned to North Carolina and are ready for response and recovery operations.

Sprayberry announced that 310 North Carolina National Guard soldiers have been activated to help with a wide range of responses, adding that more could be activated if the storm impacts are more severe than expected.

Cooper said the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is also taking steps to help with preparations. The NCDOT has suspended road crews and all lane closures beginning 7:00 PM Friday in an effort to ease evacuations of North Carolinians and also to make transit through the state easier for evacuees from other states threatened by Irma.

“Our emergency operations are now activated,” said Cooper.

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall near Miami, Florida as a Category 4 storm before skirting up the coast and reaching the Carolinas Monday and Tuesday. Coastal areas of North Carolina will begin feeling the effects of Irma late Thursday and Friday in the form of large surf and rip-tides, especially at southern facing beaches.