State officials, weather experts, and emergency rescue personnel are issuing stern warnings regarding Hurricane Irene, which is expected to begin impacting our weather this evening.

On Friday, Gov. Tom Corbett declared a statewide disaster emergency to enable state, county and municipal governments to respond effectively to the impact of the massive storm expected to affect the eastern half of the state especially.

The proclamation authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with this emergency situation.

"We are urging all Pennsylvanians to take action now to be prepared,'' Corbett said. "We will continue to monitor this changing situation statewide and plan for all possible emergencies. Should the need arise, we will be able to help as quickly and efficiently as possible.''

Fire Chief Shawn Hoben of the Diligence Fire Company in Summit Hill said the fire company is prepared to respond if necessary to emergencies from the storm.

"Take time to prepare your home for the approaching storm," he said. "This includes securing any loose items outside and making sure you are stocked up on basic food necessities and batteries for flashlights. If your home is susceptible to minor flooding take time to move things up off your floor and ensure your sump pump is working. Preparations now will lead to less frustrations later."

Mark Nalesnik, Emergency Management Coordinator in Carbon County, has sent instructions to all 23 municipalities in the county regarding preparations for the storm.

He urged municipalities to check storm drains to make sure they aren't blocked, make sure all road equipment and emergency vehicles are filled with fuel, and that all employees not scheduled to work are available for on-call status.

He also instructed all municipal emergency management coordinators to be prepared in case they are pressed into service.

Rain from the hurricane will begin hitting the area this evening.

The latest forecast calls for winds of up to 60 miles per hour through most of our local area.

The brunt of the hurricane is expected to hit the Delaware and New Jersey shores where evacuations began as early as Wednesday.

Casinos in Atlantic City closed at 8 p.m. last night. It was only the third time in Atlantic City's 35 year history of gambling that the casinos were closed.

PPL Electric Utilities is dispatching about 150 employees and contractors from PPL's utility operations from Kentucky to help with weekend storm cleanup. This marks the first time Kentucky employees have provided mutual assistance in Pennsylvania since PPL Corporation acquired Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities last year.

"The track of the storm, and its potential effect on Pennsylvania, is not yet clear. But PPL Electric Utilities will be ready, no matter what Hurricane Irene brings," said David G. DeCampli, PPL Electric Utilities' president. "We are putting storm preparation plans in place, and taking steps so we're in the best position to keep customers' lights on and be as responsive as we can when trouble occurs."

The storm threatens to make August the wettest month in most of Eastern Pa. since records have been kept by the National Weather Service.

So far this month, Allentown has received 11.98 inches of rain, making it the second wettest August on record. The wettest was in 1955, when 12.1 inches of rain fell. That was the year Hurricanes Connie and Diane brought torrential rains to the area, causing deadly flooding.

Palmerton has has 10.58 inches of rain this month, says the National Weather Service.