State of emergency now in effect for North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WAVY/AP) — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency — which took effect at  8 a.m. Thursday — ahead of any strike from Hurricane Irma.

Irma is the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured. The Category 5 storm has destroyed homes and flooded streets across several small islands in the northern Caribbean.

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Cooper said during a news conference Wednesday that North Carolina is still five days or so away from feeling any possible impacts from Irma. However, it’s not too soon to get ready.

Cooper says residents throughout the state need to be prepared and take the threat of this storm seriously. He added that all swift-water rescue teams the state had sent to Texas for Hurricane Harvey were expected back in North Carolina by Wednesday night.

The governor says resources will be concentrated where they will be most needed depending on Irma’s track.

Cooper says the state is in a somewhat better position compared to Hurricane Matthew last October, when rains from an earlier storm swelled inland waterways by the time the center of the storm arrived.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency Wednesday for the state’s 100-mile (160-kilometer) swath of Atlantic coast, which was last struck by a hurricane of force Category 3 or higher in 1898. His South Carolina counterpart, Gov. Henry McMaster, declared an emergency for that neighboring state as officials assessed the chances of receiving a major hurricane strike there for the first time in nearly 28 years.

“It is a precaution. This is not an order of evacuation,” McMaster said in Columbia, South Carolina’s capital, adding evacuations could be ordered as early as Friday — if needed.  “Assume it’s arriving tomorrow morning and get ready. When that hurricane is coming, when it gets close, it’s too late.”

Shoppers wait in line for the arrival of a shipment of water during preparations for the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989. It slammed ashore just north of Charleston with winds of 135 mph (215 kph), causing 13 deaths in the state and $6.5 billion in damage in 1989 dollars.

Both Georgia and South Carolina had brushes last October with Hurricane Matthew. In Georgia, three people died and damage from falling trees and flooding in low-lying areas caused an estimated $500 million in damages. South Carolina also evacuated much of its coast as Hurricane Matthew skimmed past, coming ashore north of Charleston with winds of 75 mph (100 kph).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.