Irene's effect on the Triangle: Some storms, power outages

Posted August 26, 2011 12:36 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2011 3:32 a.m. EDT

— Hurricane Irene may batter coastal North Carolina through the weekend, but the impact on the Triangle will likely be more that of a passing thunderstorm.

Rain showers began Friday and were expected to be followed by winds approaching tropical storm strength by mid-day Saturday, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

Power outages were widespread early Saturday morning, with nearly 60,000 Progress Energy and about 1,400 Duke Energy customers without power statewide. New Hanover, Carteret, Sampson, Duplin and Lenoir counties were among the most affected.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory that includes Wake, Johnston, Durham and Cumberland counties beginning Saturday at 6 a.m. and extending until Sunday morning.  

Fishel said the Triangle will see sustained winds at about 20 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph. The rain in the Triangle will be heaviest around late morning and up to 2 inches could accumulate by Sunday. Some spotty power outages or minor wind damage could result if winds toss loose items and weak trees.

The entire eastern half of the state is under a flash flood watch. Irene is expected to move along the Outer Banks Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane bringing widespread flooding and power outages.

The forecast calls for rain to intensify significantly by dawn Saturday.

"Conditions will deteriorate overnight Friday into Saturday across the eastern half of the state," said Fishel. "We are in for a very long couple of days."

Cumberland County could see up to 2 inches or more fall by Sunday.

Along the Interstate 95 corridor, heavy rain is likely and up to 4 to 6 inches of rain could fall Saturday. The rainfall totals, wind speeds, downed trees and potential for power outages will be greatest east of I-95, Johnson said.

Experts advise inland residents to prepare for spotty power outages by gassing up cars and generators, moving lawn furniture and other items indoors and stocking up on bottled water and cash. When power goes out, gas pumps, ATMs and credit card readers won't work.