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Charlotte Talks: Hurricane Irma, Storm Preparedness, And The Rest Of The 2017 Hurricane Season


Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma is headed west. Find out what, if anything, Charlotte and the Carolinas can expect this week, how you can prepare for storms and emergencies and what the rest of the hurricane season may be like.

Things could have been much worse, but after scraping the Northern coast of Cuba, Hurricane Irma weakened this weekend and turned in a slightly different direction. That means, this area is no longer in the direct path of the storm as it heads away from Florida.

But because Irma was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded and because it followed on the heels of Harvey, whose destruction crippled one of America’s largest cities, we’re going to take a closer look at what these storms portend and how we should react.

With that in mind we turn to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. But how? Mike Collins and guests talk about hurricane preparedness and the rest of the 2017 hurricane season.

On Hurricane Irma

It’s down to a tropical storm now just south of Tallahassee, Florida. It’s moving northwest into southern Georgia where it will be the day. Then it will move to parts of eastern Alabama.  –Brad Panovich
The strongest part of the storm is in the Jacksonville area going towards Savannah, Georgia. That’s because the flow of the storm is on shore. There’s some light rain spreading across the area right now. The heavier rain will start by this afternoon spreading into overnight. Wind gusts 30 to 35 mph. It could’ve been a lot worse.   –Steve Wilkinson
We look at topography. In Houston you have the bowl effect. Here in the Piedmont, we have topography that lends itself to water shed more quickly. 60 inches of rain in less than a week’s time. That level of rain anywhere would cause an incredible amount of flash flooding. We’re a river area, so much of that would go from swollen creeks to both the Catawba and the Atkin swelling tremendously. Duke energy is very good about monitoring water conditions ahead of time.  –Mark Boone
We have been preparing for Irma for weeks. We always need volunteers, it’s Americans helping Americans. We have five shelters in North Carolina. We also train to help in other communities. Financial donations help us invest into the community that needs the funds.   –Angela Broome Powley

What this means for winter

Looking at the trend for the past few years, we’ve had pretty warm winters. We haven’t had a really cold winter in a long time. This time of year you want to start looking for hints like snowfall in northern Siberia. If they have above average snowfall in September or October, we tend to get more cold air on the east coast. I have a feeling it’s going to be average, or just above average.  –Brad Panovich

On flood zones in Charlotte

If you are in or adjacent to a flood zone, you definitely want to have flood insurance. Folks outside of the floodplain will still be inundated. Approximately 5,500 homes in Mecklenburg County are in the floodplain. There used to be a lot more, but we’ve done floodplain buy outs where we buy the property and demolish it.  Floodplains began being regulated in the late 70s. We’ve had an ongoing mapping process since the 90s. We will continue to update floodplain maps because of development. We encourage wise development in the floodplains. We work with developers to make sure they’re aware of the need for storm water flow.   –Mark Boone

What to do if you have to evacuate

The first 72 hours you should be able to take care of your family. You should have a gallon of water for each person in your family. Think about canned goods and a can opener, medication, pet supplies. Also write your phone numbers down and copies of all of your important documents. Identification, cash, or your home insurance policy. Think a little old school when you didn’t have a cloud or phone. Food, water and warm clothes will be needed no matter what. A small kit in your car is important. Update your kit, expiration dates, phone numbers, at least once a year. Heed the warning of emergency officials. When they say leave, leave and evacuate. Have a plan in place with your family in case you’re separated.   –Angela Broome Powley


Brad Panovich - Chief Meteorologist, WCNC-TV

Steve Wilkinson - National Weather Service, Greenville-Spartanburg

Mark Boone - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services

Angela Broome Powley - Red Cross Regional Executive for the Western North Carolina Region

Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.