SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - While not letting their guard down, state officials and local emergency officials say it now appears that the piedmont may not be feeling the full force of Hurricane Irma, based on the latest projected path for the storm.
"Things are looking better for North Carolina with Hurricane Irma, but our state is not yet in the clear and we can't let our guard down," said Governor Roy Cooper on Friday. "We're continuing to get ready, and I encourage families and businesses across our state to do the same."
"The breezes on Sunday will increase to bona fide gusty winds on Monday despite the fact Irma is now expected to pass even farther to our west with the center of the storm now forecast to head northwestward on the western side of Atlanta, GA and toward Nashville, TN," said WBTV meteorologist Al Conklin. "Until we see more data however, we are still wary of wind gusts reaching as high as 45 - 55 mph Monday afternoon and evening with rainfall amounts still in the 2" - 4" range."
Precautions are still being taken in the area.
Rowan County Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason held a conference call on Thursday and will hold another call on Friday to update local public safety and other agencies about what the storm may bring to the area.
There is also an effort ongoing to help those who have been fleeing the storm's path in Florida.
In Cabarrus County, Charlotte Motor Speedway has opened up the Rock City campground for evacuees, and the Cabarrus Visitor Center is offering itself as a resource for anyone seeking information on hotel rooms in Concord and Kannapolis.
A guide to those resources can be found here: http://bit.ly/2xOsV06
Stores throughout the area have reported a brisk business selling bottled water, batteries, and other supplies that would be needed in the event of local power outages or wind damage.
"We are experiencing increased traffic in our stores," said Courtney James of Food Lion. "Customers are purchasing items generally needed to weather a hurricane, including bread, ice, canned meat, water and other household items such as charcoal and batteries."
"We are making sure we have products on the shelves for our customers, taking precautions to protect our associates and stores from the storm, and working to mobilize our associates to support any potential recovery efforts after the storm," James added.
The NC Department of Transportation is suspending road work to accommodate any extra traffic caused by the storm. The suspension goes into effect Friday night at 7:00 pm.
An exception to the lane closure plan is on I-85 between Henderson and the Virginia line in Vance and Warren Counties. It will remain in a two-way pattern with a single lane in each direction over 20 miles, as there are no additional lanes to open due to the nature of the construction project at that location.
A press release from NCDOT also says that there is an alternate route for northbound drivers to avoid possible congestion through the work zone. Drivers can go on I-40 East at the I-40/85 interchange in Orange County, then I-540 East in Durham, followed by I-87 North on the east side of Raleigh to access I-95 North in Rocky Mount.
NCDOT has planned ahead for potential debris removal. Crews around the state have prepared equipment ahead of the storm. Crews and equipment also stand ready to be dispatched to other areas of the state.
When roads are flooded, or there is potential for flooding, drivers should use alternate routes. A foot of water, for example, can cause vehicles to float, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles, including SUVs and pick-up trucks.
Falling trees can bring down power lines. If drivers see trees entangled in power lines in the road, they should not approach them.