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Hurricane Irene: It's time to take this one seriously, folks

August 24, 2011 |  2:47 pm

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the Atlantic seaboard, one of the biggest challenges facing emergency personnel is not so much the storm itself but the people who will not heed storm warnings.

There is nothing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or National Hurricane Center can do to stop Hurricane Irene. It's poised to swell from a Category 3 storm to a Category 4 storm within the next 24 hours.

Instead, authorities must navigate the line between sounding the alarms and sounding alarmist as they urge residents to take this storm seriously, heeding any and all evacuation warnings.

During a news conference call Wednesday morning, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate said that there is a tendency for reporters to focus on easily relatable bits of news about a pending hurricane, such as the projected path of the eye of the storm, or the storm's category or wind speed.

"But that doesn't do it justice," he said. He urged residents to get prepared -- now -- for a big one. "I've never heard of a minor hurricane," he said.

PHOTOS: In the path of Hurricane Irene

People in coastal areas are not the only ones who should be worried about ocean surges and beach erosion, which have the potential to undermine property and send it crashing into the sea. Those conditions could be coupled with heavy, driving rains and winds exceeding 110 miles per hour, resulting in uprooted trees and downed power lines. Both have the potential to take lives -- as well as strip people of electricity for days to come.

"We are now starting to see calls for action," Fugate said. "They still have time to prepare, but that time will run out."

Some evacuations are already underway in North Carolina, and Gov. Beverly Perdue warned residents in eastern North Carolina in particular that they needed to be prepared to bear the brunt of the storm.

"We want folks there to take this storm seriously and to get prepared," she said, as seen in the video above. "We are preparing for the worst," she said.

The National Hurricane Center's latest advisory urged people to avoid doing their own forecasting, pointing out that they shouldn't assume there's nothing to worry about unless they're in the so-called "eye" of the hurricane. Such projections can and do shift over time, and all residents should keep close tabs on such changes for their own safety.

"Irene is forecast to remain a large and powerful hurricane during the next 5 days," the advisory cautioned.


View Hurricane Irene track forecast in a larger map

ALSO:

Hurricane Irene swells to Category 3 overnight

Hurricane Irene:  Could President Obama face evacuation?

Hurricane Irene pounds the Bahamas; evacuations being in North Carolina

--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

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