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Isaac's westward shift could spare NC mountains

Katie Thomas, of Augusta, Ga., picks apples at the Justus Orchard on Garren Road in Fruitland. Katie Thomas, of Augusta, Ga., picks apples at the Justus Orchard on Garren Road in Fruitland.

The path of Tropical Storm Isaac, which lashed the Florida Keys on Sunday and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it lumbered up the Gulf of Mexico, has shifted to the west, a hopeful sign for Henderson County's apple crop and the festival that honors it.

 Forecast models showed it making a path up the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in the Florida Panhandle or west of there.

The remnants of Isaac could drench the NC Apple Festival, which begins on Friday, and with high winds could thrash apple trees heavy with fruit. The latest forecast, however, shows Isaac curving west toward middle Tennessee and mostly missing the North Carolina mountains.

"We are concerned. Whenever a hurricane comes in anywhere from Tallahassee to the west we can get it," said Dave Butler, the owner of Skytop Orchard in Flat Rock. "A big rain of 8 to 10 inches won't hurt us that bad but a strong wind can hurt us. Anything over 40 mph sustained or 40 mph gusts would hurt us.

"I'm not that concerned. The storm looks disorganized but it's a long way away."

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at4+shtml/152841.shtml?5-daynl?large#contents