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N.C. emergency responders keep wary eye on Tropical Storm Hanna

Emergency responders in North Carolina are getting ready in case Tropical Storm Hanna arrives in the state later this week.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Emergency responders in North Carolina are getting ready in case Tropical Storm Hanna arrives in the state later this week.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Hanna would most likely come ashore as a hurricane between Friday and Saturday somewhere between the east coast of Florida and the North Carolina coast.

"The fact that it is weaken now is a good sign because even if it reintensifies it is going to have less time to get to the major category," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

Forecasters downgraded Hanna to tropical storm status Tuesday morning after its winds dropped to 70 mph.

Honed by decades of hurricane experience, the state has more technology and disaster planning than ever before to help deal with Hanna's potential destruction.

“We have to plan for various scenarios, various possibilities,” Bryan Beatty, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said.

Beatty points to Geographical Information Systems (GIS), where emergency officials use data from past storms and apply their lessons.

If another Hurricane Floyd, Fran or Hugo plowed across the state, teams could predict flood prone areas. Using real time information from local responders, they can pinpoint the most vulnerable residents, the nearest medical facilities or shelters, and the best evacuation routes.

Add census data, and they can even determine how many gallons of water and bags of ice may be needed.

“We'll be prepared for whatever it does,” Beatty said

Beatty's biggest concern, he said, is whether individuals and families can say the same.

“We can't be every place all at once. We need people to be able to take care of themselves for at least three days,” he said.

After years of dodging storms, Schalanda Williams has her emergency food and supplies ready.

“It was a lot of damage done during the hurricanes, so we try to be prepared now,” she said.

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said state officials are preparing and urged residents to make emergency preparations.

"We can't get caught waiting for the storm to make up its mind where it will go," Easley said in a statement.

State leaders are closely tracking the storms to determine where to position resources like the National Guard or swift water rescue teams.

The Civil Air Patrol said Tuesday that units in North Carolina were alerted at about 5 a.m. by state wing commander Lt. Col. David Crawford to be ready to fly disaster relief missions.

Crawford said his wing has more than 1,300 members who could be used by the Air Force and the state for surveillance and ground support missions.


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