Gov. Bev Perdue was grim tonight as she delivered the latest update on the Category 3 hurricane zeroing in on Atlantic Beach, NC. Landfall is expected around midday Saturday.
"Hurricane Irene now looks like she may have a bigger impact than what we expected this morning. Her location and speed are changing."
"The hurricane warning has been issued for our entire North Carolina coast. By noon tomorrow, we’ll have 180 national guard troops with boots on the ground in eastern North Carolina, and we’ll have 2,300 more folks on standby."
Perdue also said the NC Highway Parol will have 48 additional troopers on duty along the coastline to assist in storm response and evacuation, with an additional 96 on standby.
“Our shelters are open, people are evacuating. The Red Cross is in North Carolina. Our warehouses are stocked. And our swift-water teams are ready for rescue, if that’s necessary.
As recently as Tuesday, the governor was asking news outlets not to "dampen the enthusiasm of vacationers" headed for the state's coast. But today's message was that tourists and residents alike should heed evacuation advice from local officials.
"This is a listen-up to folks in North Carolina: We can always rebuild, but we cannot replace lost lives. With a hurricane warning like this, it’s time for all of us to take very seriously these warnings, heed the instructions, and listen to evacuation orders and prepare.”
Perdue said she understands why some might be hesitant to leave their property behind, especially small business owners. "There are a lot of newcomers who’ve moved to the coast of NC who’ve never really seen a hurricane before,” she said. “It’s my first time seeing a daylight hurricane, and I’ve been here for years."
But she said officials from the White House on down are keeping an eye on Irene, “I was talking to the head of Homeland Security [Janet Napolitano] today, and she said, 'Bev, they're headed your way. This looks like a big deal.'”
Irene was measured today by NASA at more than 500 miles across. It’s one-third the size of the eastern seaboard, so where it makes landfall, though important, won’t change the fact that half the state could see high winds and heavy rain.
“There’s gonna be impacts everywhere. It could still change, we all know that,” Perdue cautioned. “The best thing we can all do in North Carolina is to be prepared and to take this very, very seriously."