All eyes on Irene's path

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Hurricane Irene could be the strongest hurricane to hit North Carolina since 1996, but it’s only expected to deliver a glancing blow to Rowan County.
Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason said he doesn’t expect severe weather from the storm in Rowan County unless it moves farther west than projected.
“We’ve been monitoring the storm situation since early on this weekend, and we’re going to continue to do that closely over next 24 to 36 hours,” Thomason said.
According to, Irene is projected to come onshore over eastern North Carolina on Saturday night as a strong Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 111 to 130 miles per hour.
Scott Krentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the Piedmont will start feeling Irene’s effects late Thursday or early Friday.
“The way it’s trending right now, the storm looks like it’s going to stay more east than it’s looked like in the last few days,” Krentz said Tuesday morning. “We’re not going to be as impacted with strong winds or rainfall.”
Some tropical bands of storms could move quickly through Rowan County on Friday. Those bands can have the potential to create tornadoes and will need to be watched closely, he said.
Krentz said the Piedmont also could experience wind gusts of up to 25-30 miles per hour.
Rainfall is likely to total an inch to an inch and a quarter in isolated areas, he said, depending on where the bands are.
“Right now, there’s nothing to create a flooding potential or anything,” Krentz said. “The main thing is going to be the gustier winds.”
The forecast wasn’t so good for Salisbury native Ashley Maddox on Tuesday. She lives in Abaco, Bahamas and was preparing for Irene to hit later Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
“Everyone was working hard today shuttering their houses and getting any loose items off the grounds,” she wrote in an email to the Post. “They are expecting the hurricane to go right over us as a Category 4. This is my first hurricane so I am pretty nervous.”
Maddox said Tuesday evening that people were boarding up houses and hotels in the Bahamas during a “hectic” rush before the storm hit.
At the time, Irene was classified as a weaker Category 1 hurricane but was expected to gain strength.
“So far so good with the weather, but come tomorrow this time it won’t be a pretty sight,” Maddox wrote. “The latest is Irene moving further east which is better for us but still not what we want, for it to be gone!”
As a Category 3 storm, Irene would be the strongest hurricane to strike the Carolinas since Fran in 1996.
The worst conditions are likely to be near, north and east of the storm’s center. According to , storms moving in this manner along the East Coast tend to become lop-sided, with dry air sweeping in west and southwest of the center and promoting sunny skies.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.