Environment

Irene is blowing across the Outer Banks now as a Category 1 hurricane. Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Toolan says there's a section of Highway 12 north of Rodanthe that's washed over with sand and water. D-O-T is saying the road is intact.

Dorothy Toolan:  "This storm is just moving past Hatteras and the winds are starting to shift so we've still got a ways to go and as some of the bands move through, we have some lulls. You know, we're trying to remind folks that it's going to be with us for a while and they need to stay indoors."

Hurricane Irene is moving across the Outer Banks this morning. Will Michaels reports the storm was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, but residents are still seeing high winds and surf up and down the coast.

Irene is cutting a path along the coast between the Outer Banks and the mainland. Meteorologist John Cole is taking cover at the National Weather Service in Morehead City.

Highways leading out of coastal communities are jammed with people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irene.

From Cape Fear to Elizabeth City, two-and-four lane roads are packed with vacationers, displaced residents, and motorists trailing boats. All are headed for higher ground.

Sergeant Jeff Gordon is with the State Highway Patrol.

The outer bands of Hurricane Irene are making their way across eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service reports steady rainfall in the Wilmington area and swells of six to nine feet along the Outer Banks. Tommy Hutcherson owns the Ocracoke Variety Store. He says he's making some last-minute preparations before conditions get worse.

Storm Surge Poses Risk

Aug 26, 2011

Towns along the western edge of Pamlico Sound are preparing for storm surge when Hurricane Irene hits.

" Not surprisingly, storm surge is worst when the wind is blowing water right at you. That makes the exact track of Irene so important. If the center of the storm tracks directly over Pamlico Sound, towns like New Bern and Swansboro could be in for significant surge."

Rick Luettich is the director of the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Science in Morehead City.

The American Red Cross is moving equipment and personnel into place to help people who may be affected by Hurricane Irene. Timm Heisey with the Red Cross says 45 emergency response vehicles are being staged in Raleigh. He says many Triangle residents signed up to be volunteers after the April tornadoes.

State officials are once again urging residents of eastern North Carolina to prepare for Hurricane Irene. Forecasters say the storm is likely to pass directly over the Outer Banks Saturday evening as a Category 3 hurricane. Governor Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for all counties east of I-95 this morning. Perdue says federal agencies are now ready to respond to potential storm damage.

Hurricane Irene
nasa.gov

Evacuations are underway on Ocracoke Island ahead of Hurricane Irene. Lucy Wallace is spokeswoman for the Ocracoke Ferry Office.

State officials say residents in eastern North Carolina should prepare for the worst if Hurricane Irene brings high winds to the area. Visitors began leaving Ocracoke Island this morning and local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation for residents starting tomorrow. Governor Bev Perdue asked coastal residents this morning to prepare an evacuation plan.

Bev Perdue: "We want folks there to take this storm seriously and to get prepared. We do this regularly in North Carolina. We know how to do it. We are preparing for the worst. Get that plan together today... please."

Hurricane Irene
nasa.gov

The town of Ocracoke and Hyde County has issued a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irene. There's a mandatory evacuation in place for visitors and a voluntary one for residents. But residents will have a mandatory evacuation starting at 5 am tomorrow. Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell says people considering staying should heed the warnings.

Quake Felt in NC

Aug 23, 2011

People across North Carolina felt the 5.9-magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia.

Earthquakes might be rarer on the east coast than they are in the west. But Laura Wagner, assistant professor of seismology at UNC Chapel Hill, explains why tremors here can be felt over such long distances.

Hurricane Irene
nasa.gov

North Carolina forecasters are keeping an eye on Hurricane Irene as it makes its way toward the southeast. The storm became a Category 2 hurricane late last night and is expected to strengthen to Category 3 later today. Meteorologist Katie Roussy says the latest forecast has North Carolina in the path of the storm.

Federal officials are recognizing the work of state water quality and transportation officials in protecting wetlands. The Federal Highway Administration is presenting the state Division of Water Quality and Department of Transportation with two awards. Susan Massengale is a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She says one award is for the development of an advanced modeling system that produces accurate maps of streams and wetlands.

An Asian beetle that first turned up in Michigan is threatening to spread to North Carolina. The Emerald Ash Borer arrived in the U.S. about ten years ago. Since then it's spread from the midwest, to most of the states surrounding North Carolina. Brian Haines works for the state Forest Service.

The City of Fayetteville wants the remaining damaged homes from the April 16th tornadoes cleaned up. The twisters that swept across the state left thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. Scott Shuford, Fayetteville's Development Services Director, says they've identified 85 homes in need of extensive cleanup or repair four months after the storms hit. He says they don't have any jurisdiction to do anything about homes that are just eye-sores.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has voted to place annual catch limits on some fish. The council is charged with preventing over-fishing off the coast of North Carolina and other south Atlantic states. The panel voted this week to limit catch totals on species like mackerel, grouper, and dolphin fish. Mike Leonard of the American Sportfishing Association says recreational fishermen are worried the decision could lead to stricter rules for more popular fish.

Corolla Wild Horses
corollawildhorses.com

The death of a two-week old horse in Corolla has led a conservation group to hire beach patrols to educate the public about the wild horses that roam there. The horse died after being fed, which is against the law. Karen McCalpin is Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. She says her small staff wasn't able to adequately protect the horses in their 11 mile, 75-hundred acre habitat.

A brown pelican blown off course nearly a year ago by Hurricane Earl has been released into the wild on the North Carolina coast. The seabird nicknamed "Ralph" was found injured on the roof of a building in Nova Scotia last September. Ralph was transported earlier this year to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport. The nickname stuck despite the fact that Ralph is a female. Clinic supervisor Maria Rush says Ralph completed the rehabilitation process this weekend.

ncdrought.org
ncdrought.org

State officials are taking steps to stay on top of the drought in North Carolina that's becoming more and more severe. The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council met July 21st in Williamston face-to-face in an acknowledgement of the severity of the issue. The focus of the meeting was mostly on the drought's impact on agriculture in the eastern part of the state. A recent federal map classified most of eastern North Carolina in the "severe" drought category. Ten counties in the southeast were listed in the "extreme" drought category. Spokeswoman for the State Division of Water Resources Sarah Young says the last time we saw extreme drought conditions was in December of 2008.

Chatham county officials take a step toward protecting the area's natural resources today. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Chatham County is the first of its kind in North Carolina. An event being held in Pittsboro this afternoon will unveil details of the voluntary program. Leigh Ann Hammerbacher works for the Triangle Land Conservancy which contributed to the plan.

A sulfur-melting plant proposed near Morehead City has provoked a public outcry. Tom Pasztor, Senior Director of Corporate and Government Relations for the Potash Corporation says they need the plant in order to produce fertilizers, agricultural feed and industrial products. The Potash Corporation is the parent company of PCS Phosphates. PCS already uses sulfur to produce fertilizers and agricultural feeds at a facility in Aurora, North Carolina. The plant would allow them to melt dry sulfur that arrives at the port.

Water contamination at Camp Lejeune is the subject of a public forum today in Wilmington. Experts estimate close to a million people at Camp Lejeune might have been exposed to contaminated water between the 1950's and 1980's. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will host the session. Previous meetings have been held at the agency's headquarters in Atlanta. But they're holding the meeting in Wilmington because of the large number of affected residents in North Carolina.

Marines at Camp Lejeune are welcoming the shipment of locally-produced biofuel. 800 gallons were delivered today as a demonstration of the capability of biofuel in North Carolina. The delivery is part of the efforts of the North Carolina Eastern Region's Military Growth Task Force. George Miller is the Program Manager for the Food and Fuel Program for the task force. He says the crop was grown in eastern North Carolina in Jones and Craven Counties, turned into 100 percent biofuel at the Piedmont Biofuels refinery in Pittsboro, then sent to Potter Oil back east.

Animal Control officials say at least 10 packs of wild dogs are roaming neighborhoods in Cumberland County. Residents have recently reported feral dogs attacking or killing family pets. County Animal Control director John Lauby says more owners are abandoning their pets as they struggle with an economy still coming out of recession. Dogs instinctively join packs after being without food for long periods of time. Lauby says some residents have been feeding the wild dogs, which takes away his ability to trap them.

The National Park Service is accepting public comment about rules governing off-road vehicles on the Outer Banks. North Carolina environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2007 that said regulators did not have proper rules in place to protect wildlife from vehicles that might disturb sea turtle nests and other natural habitats. At the same time, some North Carolina lawmakers lobbied for beach access to support local businesses. Mike Murray is the superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Big game hunting could be coming to the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. A new proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow limited hunting for white tail deer and feral hogs. Mike Bryant is a refuge manager for six areas including Currituck. He says the rule changes would mark the first time deer and hog hunters would be allowed in the refuge.

EPA officials are working to clean up tractor trailers containing barrels filled with chemicals on a residential property in Rocky Mount. The owner of the property said the trailers had been there since he inherited the land from his father. When crews arrived on-site they reported strong chemical odors and a trailer was leaking black material. Kenneth Rhame of the EPA says they have determined the air around the site is not contaminated, but soil contamination is still a worry.

Researchers are surveying protected marine species along the east coast. They're documenting the birds, fish, and mammals that live in and around the ocean. The survey is entering its second year and will not be completed until 2014. Shelley Dawicki of The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says very little is known about the distribution and density of marine life deep in the ocean.

A new study from Duke University reveals that many of the world's undiscovered plant and animal species are in danger. Researchers say many of the missing species live in areas being developed or deforested. Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Ecology at Duke. He says a new mathematical model doubles the number of plant species believed to be under threat.

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