COOPER: Irma expected to bring rip currents to North Carolina's coast

Shawn Sullivan Airbnb’s public policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean

Shawn Sullivan Airbnb’s public policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean

The major storm that is pummeling Cuba and it expected to blast Florida Sunday, has moved away from most of North Carolina, but western parts of the state are still expected to receive high winds and several inches of rain as the storm passes through the state as it heads to Tennessee.

Initial plans called for opening staging areas across the state, but now only centers in Greensboro and Asheville are planned.

The ultimate lesson, of course, is to stay attuned to the storm's track. That's due to evacuees from states to the south in the direct path of Irma.

Construction sites will shut down and lane closures will reopen statewide as of 7 p.m. tonight (Friday) to aid traffic flow.

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The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center lessens the impact of the storm for much of North Carolina.

Despite the shift, Wyatt said residents should prepare for heavy rain, wind and possible power outages and should have enough food and water on hand for 48 to 72 hours.

The governor's statement said North Carolina's Emergency Management team was coordinating storm preparation efforts as early as Labor Day.

The NWS cautioned that flooding remains the largest threat to life during landfalling hurricanes in central North Carolina. Wyatt said the Mountain State Fair, which opens this weekend, could be affected by the storm. But the latest track of the storm shows it moving westward, which could lessen the impact Irma would have on WNC.

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Hurricane-force winds whipped the Florida Keys, closed Tampa Bay's Skyway Bridge and blew through a largely empty Miami Saturday at the leading edge of the storm.

"We're continuing to take preparing for this storm seriously, and we're tracking forecasts closely", Cooper said.

Climatologists have always been predicting more active storm seasons due to climate change, and we have seen those forecasts come true.

Local emergency agencies have been taking precaution for Irma as early as last Tuesday. Heavy rain, flash flooding (especially in low-lying areas) and landslides may occur in the mountains.

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"If Hurricane Irma were to affect Western Carolina University, we will follow the University's Adverse Weather Policy (Policy # 41) to make determinations on class and work schedules". Irma's effects are likely to conclude by Wednesday.

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