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Upstate prepares for potential impact from Hurricane Irma

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Upstate businesses are preparing for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. As the storm tracks toward Florida, the Upstate region remained in the path of the storm that has already taken a toll on islands in the Caribbean.

The latest projections have the hurricane approaching the Florida Keys and southern Florida by Sunday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. South Carolina and western North Carolina are projected to receive 3” to 6” of rain when the storm reaches the region.

Rosylin Westin, vice president of communications for the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, said GSP officials are keeping a watchful eye on the storm as it approaches the East Coast.

“We are making preparations to secure any equipment on the ramp or around the campus that may be affected by high winds,” Westin said. “We have met with tenants and asked that they too be prepared to do the same.”

She said airport officials are working with airlines to communicate any cancellations, delays or information about flights being diverted to GSP. Any travel advisories will be posted to GSP’s website and its social media channels. Westin said passengers should still check with their respective airlines for flight information before coming to the airport.

Most hotels in the area are booked to capacity, according to David Montgomery, director of sales for VisitGreenvilleSC. But, he said things are changing as events cancel due to the storm and people seek out accommodations.

“For the most part, the hotels seem to be managing it, but it does appear to be fluid,” Montgomery said. “A hotel may have been booked before, then have rooms open up. The hotels have been very accommodating for those who are canceling and for those who are looking for rooms.”

Utilities such as AT&T and Duke Energy are also preparing for the storm.

Duke Energy lead meteorologist Steve Leyton said Irma is one of the strongest storms he has seen coming out of the Atlantic.

“While the track of the storm could still change in the coming days, it is important for people who live in its potential path to make plans now and prepare their homes and families,” Leyton said, in a news release.

Duke officials said the company is checking equipment, supplies and inventory used for repairs and power restoration. For more information on Duke’s preparations, visit duke-energy.com/Irma.

Pamela Lackey, president of AT&T South Carolina, said cellular and internet provider is topping off fuel generators, testing high-capacity back-up batteries at cell sites and protecting physical facilities against flooding.

“We’ve worked for the past few days to position equipment and crews to respond to the storm. We’re closely linked with South Carolina public officials in their storm response efforts,” Lackey said. “With a storm of this size, we may have some outages. But if service goes down, we'll do all we can to get it back up as fast as possible.”

Verizon Wireless Southeast market President Russ Preite said the wireless carrier is also making preparations.

"We have been engaged from the southern tip of Florida up through Virginia to ensure our network provides life-saving connectivity needed during times like these," Preite said, in a statement.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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