Organizations and agencies across Wayne County are bracing for the potential impact of Hurricane Irma as it stews in the Caribbean and gains strength.

Wayne County emergency management officials have contacted schools, the Salvation Army and other local partners to encourage them to keep an eye on Hurricane Irma.

Meetings are scheduled for later in the week to firm up a response plan in both the city and county.

And now, officials are waiting to see what will happen.

A meeting this Friday to discuss shelters had been planned before the development of Hurricane Irma, said Mel Powers, Wayne County Office of Emergency Services director.

The county has been tweaking its shelter plans in the wake of last October's Hurricane Matthew, Powers said. The Friday meeting is part of that process, he said.

"It (Hurricane Irma) is so far out we are just monitoring it," he said. "Since the storm is out there we will be talking about that, too. We will have a better idea Friday of where it is going."

Currently, it appears that it could be as late as next Wednesday before the county could be affected by Hurricane Irma, he said.

City of Goldsboro public works crews are taking preliminary steps to prepare for a possible weather event, depending on the track of the storm.

City workers have been clearing out stormwater drains, checking equipment and monitoring the hurricane as it tracks closer to the Florida coast.

Public works employees plan to meet to discuss their disaster plans, said Rick Fletcher, Goldsboro public works director.

"We're going to start preliminary discussions on how to prepare," Fletcher said. "Every 24 hours, we can make a better decision. We know we're going to get something. There's some preparation, but we won't know until we get more information."

Goldsboro Fire Chief Gary Whaley said the department developed a 12-person water rescue team in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Whaley added the department had developed a contingency plan for how to stage equipment and call-in extra personnel in case the hurricane turns and comes toward North Carolina.

"We still have a little bit of time to plan, but we have already been talking about where to stage equipment at and how many personnel we would need," Whaley said.

The water rescue team would be split up and put on either side of Stoney Creek, Whaley said, and an extra shift -- 24 personnel -- will be called in if needed.

"I think we're a whole lot further ahead than we were last year," Whaley said.

He urged that people stay at home and stay off the roads if their house is not in a flood-prone area. If people do drive, Whaley said, they need stay well away from standing water and not attempt to go through it.

Lt. Ian Barratt, with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Dive Team, urged the same.

"The main thing is just stay out of the water," Barratt said. "Don't drive through any of the flooded roads."

The American Red Cross is already preparing for the worst case scenario in case Hurricane Irma hits the North Carolina coast.

"We're taking a number of precautions and precautions all up and down the east coast," said James E. Jarvis, executive director for the American Red Cross of the Cape Fear Area, of which Wayne County is a part.

"We are preparing to shelter as many as 120,000 residents from Florida to Virginia. We are mobilizing our shelter teams and assets to be able to do that."

Jarvis said assets include shelter trailers that contain cots, blankets and water for shelters, along with other items the Red Cross needs to open a shelter.

"We are inventorying them and getting ready to stage them in places where they won't be affected and lose all those everything," Jarvis said.

Right now, the Red Cross is working with emergency managers on where to stage shelters.

"We are now planning for a worst case scenario in case Hurricane Irma comes into the Carolinas," Jarvis said.

He said the Red Cross hopes to have a better idea of where and when shelters will be open in the next 24 hours.

"Right now, we are making sure we know who we have that we can count on," Jarvis said. "A lot of our people are deployed to Texas."

He said Wayne County does have 25 disaster volunteers on standby.

If the hurricane hits Florida instead of the Carolinas, then the Red Cross will deploy volunteers and trailers with supplies to help the people there, in addition to what it's still doing in Texas and Louisiana.

The local Salvation Army has stocked its canteen and has disaster teams ready to deploy at moment's notice if Hurricane Irma hits the North Carolina coast.

Capt. Sherrie Stokes said the Salvation Army should be hearing from its divisional commander in Charlotte within the next few days about sending its canteen out.

Wayne County Health Department Director Davin Madden held a Wednesday afternoon pre-planning session with health department employees.

Madden said early planning is important in gearing up county workers in case they are needed during the storm. Health Department and county Department of Social Service employees primarily work at area emergency shelters, Madden said.

"You never can have enough preparedness," Madden said. "It doesn't hurt us to walk through our response.

"We're crossing our fingers that it avoids us. I think Hurricane Matthew took a toll on us, and we need time to recover."

But people are not the only ones who could be affected by the storm. Pet owners need to have a plan for their animals, too.

"We advise people to make sure their animals have a good shelter and have somewhere they can go to get out of inclement weather," said Frank Sauls, chief animal control officer for Wayne County. "If you can take your pet inside, I recommend that. Or make sure they have a good sturdy shelter to get out of the weather. Use common sense, if you don't want to be out there in it, your animal doesn't want to be either."

If you have to evacuate because of flooding, try to take your pet with you, Sauls said. Or try to find somebody to foster your pet.

"Don't just leave your animal stranded because it still needs food and shelter," he said.

-- News-Argus Staff Writers Becky Barclay, Rochelle Moore, Steve Herring and Ethan Smith contributed to this story.