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Gov. Perdue: Prepare for Irene, but don't panic

Posted August 23, 2011 6:18 p.m. EDT
Updated August 23, 2011 9:03 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Bev Perdue talked to reporters this afternoon about the latest information on Hurricane Irene, expected to approach North Carolina by Saturday.

Early forecasts predicted the storm might make landfall near Wilmington and move into inland North Carolina, but more recent predictions are moving the storm’s track farther east.

Perdue stressed that North Carolina is prepared to respond if the storm hits the state. “Irene is my mama’s name, so I take this one personally,” she joked. “But it’s really, really early.”

“The track continues to change,” she said. “The bottom line is, none of us know.”

Perdue said it would likely be Thursday before emergency management officials would know whether Irene will make landfall here as it moves up the eastern seaboard. She said officials are on high alert and urged homeowners to start thinking about storm preparations. 

Since last year, Perdue said, the state has acquired “ambulance buses” that will help if nursing homes or other facilities need to be evacuated.

“We’re as prepared as we can be,” she said. “I don’t think any of us are overly confident, but we have a network that’s very prepared and works well together.” 

But she cautioned the media to “try not to dampen the enthusiasm” of vacationers weighing whether to come to the state in the next week.

“This is the last 10 days of prime tourism season for North Carolina. We don’t want to over-alert anyone,” she said. “We’re going to be safe. But until we know, we don’t know.”

State Emergency Management director Doug Hoell said the state’s Emergency Operations Center will be activated Thursday morning. He says FEMA will arrive in Raleigh Wednesday.

Officials on Ocracoke Island have already decided to evacuate the island as the storm nears. But Hoell said he doesn’t expect many other local governments will decide on evacuation orders before Thursday.

When asked how much money North Carolina has available for disaster response and whether this year’s state budget cuts could affect that response, Perdue couldn’t offer a number. But she said she’s confident funds will be found if they’re needed.

“Resources have never been an impediment to us doing what we need to do,” said Perdue. “You can rest assured that, whatever’s in the budget, we will be able to do what we have to do.”