As Hurricane Irene churned toward the Carolinas on Thursday, area emergency officials said they are planning for the worst but hoping for the best.

Although Oneonta is more than 100 miles from the coast, hurricanes have a history of impacting the area as downgraded tropical and sub-tropical storms, with flooding being the biggest threat.

Hurricanes Ivan, Floyd, Katrina and Agnes are among the many tropical systems that have affected upstate New York.

It was too early to say what the region may expect from Irene, top emergency officials in Delaware and Otsego counties and the city of Oneonta said.

"We are just far enough out in the time frame there is a big level of uncertainty," Delaware County Emergency Services Director Rich Bell said Thursday afternoon.

Hurricanes and tropical storms tend to veer to the east as they move toward the Northeast.

"There are actually some (forecast) models that aren't convinced that will happen," Bell said. "It's our job to prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Bell said the area has fairly saturated soil, which could be a concern if heavy rain from Irene or its remnants occurs.

As of Thursday, there were no plans to staff the Delaware County Emergency Services office through the weekend.

"Staffing will be dependent on the situation," he said. "We are constantly monitoring it."

But local fire departments are also following Irene and are on call 24 hours a day to serve the public, he said.

County department heads met with Bell following an afternoon conference call with National Weather Service meteorologists.

Oneonta Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon, who also serves as the city's emergency coordinator, said his crews were in "wait and see" mode.

The city has been receiving regular updates from the National Weather Service in Binghamton and had an afternoon briefing from meteorologists.

"We don't want to push the panic button to quick," Pidgeon said.

Pidgeon said if the situation turns bad, the city would coordinate its emergency response with the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services.

The area has an advantage in that the Susquehanna River is at low levels.

"The river is actually down so we are fortunate there," Pidgeon said.

Otsego County Emergency Services Coordinator Kevin Ritton said the NWS should have a better idea today of what Irene may have in store for the region. Ritton also participated in a conference call Thursday with the NWS.

"Their computers are having difficulty predicting the exact path of the storm right now and we should know more tomorrow afternoon," he said after the call.

The best case scenario for the region is 2 inches of rain and minimal wind, while the "extreme worst case" is 10 inches of rain, according to Ritton.

The NWS was not leaning heavily toward the worst case scenario, he said.

Ritton said his office has reached out to towns, fire chiefs and emergency squad captains to keep them informed. The county also will be posting weather information on its website at He said people can also visit his office's Facebook page for information.

"We want to make sure we are prepared as possible," Ritton said.

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