Hurricane Irma update: What to expect in Charlotte as National Guard heads to city

Hurricane Irma update: What to expect in Charlotte as National Guard heads to city

CHARLOTTE, NC (Adam Bell/The Charlotte Observer) - Hurricane Irma's projected path has shifted greatly in recent days, but National Guard personnel will deploy to Charlotte and other areas of the state, Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday, as the storm is still expected to impact North Carolina on Monday and Tuesday.

The National Weather Service says that "tropical storm hazards" were possible those days for the Charlotte region, as well as western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte announced on Saturday afternoon it is opening a shelter at J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville for out-of-state evacuees.

Despite the storm's shift toward the west, Cooper said he wants North Carolinians in all regions of the state to prepare, especially if Irma unexpectedly shifts east. "Make sure you are ready for whatever Irma brings," Cooper said at a news conference.

Charlotte should expect a gusty Monday and 2 to 7 inches of rain are possible between Monday and Tuesday. Tornadoes are also possible.

Lauren Carroll, a meteorologist with the weather service's Greer, S.C. office, said rainfall totals might decrease for the area if Irma continues moving west. But a flooding threat would still exist, Carroll said, because the storm's outer bands can drop several inches of rain in a short time period.

"That's more what we're concerned about (for the Charlotte-area) specifically," Carroll said.

Showers would start after 11 a.m. Monday, and sustained wind speeds of 17 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 37 mph possible, the weather service said Saturday.

Irma's center is expected to move across southwest Georgia on Monday and over Alabama on Tuesday, but the storm will bring heavy rain in western North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Guard will deploy personnel to Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville and far western counties Sunday, Cooper said. Search and rescue teams are also prepared if needed.

Some gas stations might experience fuel shortages as evacuees from other states travel to North Carolina, Cooper said, urging people to only take the amount of gas they need.

The storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane Saturday morning, but is expected to strengthen again before making landfall in Florida, forecasters said. The storm was expected to land in the Florida Keys and southern Florida by Saturday afternoon or night.