Published: 2016-08-31 17:34:00
Updated: 2016-08-31 23:34:16
Posted August 31
Raleigh, N.C. — Tropical Storm Hermine reached maximum sustained winds of 60 mph Wednesday night as it strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico on a path that would bring the storm inland and into North Carolina late Friday and into Saturday.
WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said the storms track shifted slightly east from the track that was predicted earlier in the day, but the change would not be drastic enough to spare North Carolina from the wind and rain.
“It certainly is not a massive shift by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “If we have sustained winds near the center of this thing of 30 or 40 mph and multiple inches of rain, that could still cause quite a bit of a problem."
Hermine is likely to rapidly intensify as it approaches the peninsula of Florida through Thursday evening and Fishel said it may reach hurricane status before it makes landfall in Florida.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for portions of Florida's Gulf Coast Wednesday night.
The storm was about 900 southwest of Raleigh Wednesday night.
Activity pushed by the system – heavy surf and thunderstorms – spread from the Gulf of Mexico across the Florida peninsula and up the east coast. The track of the storm keeps the potential for wind and rain in the forecast in North Carolina through about midday on Saturday.
Fishel said the chance for storm force winds and rain remain low until Friday evening and reach their peak during the overnight hours. The rain should taper to showers by Saturday afternoon and evening, he said.
Forecast models Wednesday night showed a wide variant in rain totals ranging from more than five inches by the coast to about an inch near Roxboro. Fishel said rainfall totals for those in the middle are dependent on the final track of the storm.
“If you’re in this zone right here and this whole thing shifts just 25 or 30 miles either direction, it makes a big difference in what you end up getting,” he said.
The threat of tropical weather has already caused some high school football games to move to Thursday night, but those schedule changes have been limited to coastal areas and schools down east in the coastal plain.
Several games were already scheduled for Thursday due to the holiday weekend.
In anticipation of the storm, the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday set Port Condition X-Ray for all North Carolina waterways, meaning pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor and commercial vessels must adhere with a series of rules in order to remain in the water.
Rain chances for the Triangle begin Thursday afternoon as a cold front approaches the state. Friday will be full of rain and wind as temperatures rise into the mid 70s. Wind gusts could reach speeds of about 60 mph, said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze. Rain showers are also expected Saturday as Hermine makes its way through the state.
If you are looking to head to the coast, the second half of the holiday weekend will be mostly clear.
"Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the sun is back, and so is the heat as we climb back into the 90s," Fishel said.