Published: 2016-10-07 13:28:00
Updated: 2016-10-08 01:04:18
Posted October 7, 2016
Updated October 8, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — There was a renewed sense of urgency along the North Carolina coast Friday after forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted that Hurricane Matthew would track slightly closer to the Tar Heel State than previous models showed.
The relatively small changes to the track likely mean that parts of southeastern North Carolina will see torrential rain and flooding between Friday evening and Sunday morning as the hurricane treks through the waters just offshore.
As of 1:30 p.m., Matthew was forecast to be a Category 1 storm by the time it reaches areas off the North Carolina coast. Despite Matthew being weaker, however, as much as 10 to 12 inches of rain could fall in some spots.
Generally, rainfall totals will increase from Raleigh to the south and east. Matthew's outer bands could begin bringing rain to the North Carolina coast by Friday evening, with the heaviest rain coming on Saturday and Saturday evening.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning from Cocoa Beach, Florida, to Surf City, North Carolina.
In addition, a hurricane watch has been posted for north of Surf City to Cape Lookout. Also, a tropical storm warning is in effect from north of Surf City to Duck on the northern Outer Banks, as well as the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.
Wilmington ready for heavy rain, flooding
Wilmington-area officials are bracing for flash flooding and possible widespread power outages.
New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee said Friday that new forecasts have increased concerns about high winds beginning Saturday afternoon and rain totals approaching 1 foot. Downed trees and minor structural damage to buildings are possible.
Lee said at a media briefing that voluntary evacuations have been issued for local beaches and low-lying areas prone to flooding, but they could become mandatory if projections worsen. He strongly urged people to stay out of the ocean.
Lee says two emergency shelters would be open late Friday afternoon. New Hanover County and City of Wilmington city offices were to close at 3 p.m.
Residents of Wrightsville Beach were keeping a close eye on Matthew's path Friday afternoon. Some said they weren't too concerned about potential damage from the storm.
"Not as bad as Fran, Bertha, Floyd. I think we'll be all right. What do they say, '"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,'" Palmer Williams, a Wrightsville Beach resident, said.
Visitors quickly leaving other NC coastal towns
Visitors in Brunswick County moved pretty quickly to obey orders to get out of town before Hurricane Matthew approached the southeastern part of North Carolina.
The county government, the city of Southport and all six beach towns had declared states of emergency by Thursday and issued voluntary evacuation notices. Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island have imposed mandatory evacuations, ordering visitors to leave.
Officials rely on rental companies and hotels to inform visitors about evacuations. Condominiums emptied fast, and one vacationer grumbled about having to leave.
McCrory warns of flooding risk
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he's worried about current projections of Hurricane Matthew that show the storm could lead to heavier rains than previously estimated at or near the coast and power outages from high winds.
McCrory said in a storm media briefing that wind gusts could push above 65 mph, and that citizens should be prepared to remain without electricity for some time because utilities may have to focus first on other affected regions.
He says the North Carolina National Guard and emergency equipment are being assembled, including high-water vehicles and swift-water rescue teams. The state is also providing a helicopter rescue team and other resources to South Carolina. McCrory says a mobile hospital unit is ready to go to Florida when it's safe to do so.
On Friday afternoon, McCrory announced that the state's request for a federal disaster declaration for 66 counties in eastern North Carolina by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This declaration makes federal resources available to help local and state government agencies respond to the potential disaster and gives quick access to stockpiles of disaster supplies like bottled water and meals that FEMA has already staged at Fort Bragg," McCrory said in a statement.
McCrory said swift-water rescue teams have been deployed to the following counties: Bladen, Craven, Martin, Brunswick, Pamlico, Camden and Pasquotank.