Potentially dramatic changes could keep Matthew farther from NC

Hurricane Matthew is now forecast to make landfall along the North Carolina-South Carolina border on Saturday morning, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As Hurricane Matthew continues to make its way through the Caribbean, models released Tuesday night showed several scenarios where the storm could stay to the south and east of North Carolina.

Matthew battered the western tip of Haiti early Tuesday, dumping multiple inches of rain in many spots. The storm made landfall near the eastern tip of Cuba at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The storm has been responsible for 11 deaths across the Carribbean.

The National Hurricane Center is maintaining the same forecast track, showing Matthew traveling along the southeast coast and approaching the North Carolina coast as a category 2 storm by Saturday. WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said, however, that there is growing support for a change to that path.

"There are some weird things going on with this storm right now that could get us off the hook," Fishel said.

Fishel said a number of models show that after Matthew approaches the Florida coast or makes landfall in the state it could take a hard right and never make it up to North Carolina. Some models even show the system curving around and returning back to Cuba over the coming days.

Only one out of 21 models Tuesday night took Hurricane Matthew into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Fishel said the new track could be the result of the disintegrating ridge forcing the hurricane to take an eastward track.

"That doesn't mean we wouldn't have any wind and rain, but it sure as heck would be a lot better than the scenario we were painting earlier," he siad.

The category 3 storm was moving north at about 8 mph and was located about 1,100 miles southeast of Raleigh at just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.

"There has been some weakening of this system as it interacts with land, but you hate to call winds of 130 mph weakening," Fishel said.

Coastal towns take precautions ahead of Hurricane Matthew

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she plans to issue an evacuation order Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Matthew so that 1 million people can safely and comfortably leave the coast.

Haley said at a Tuesday news conference that she will finalize the order Wednesday morning, unless there is a major shift in the storm's track. Haley says she expects the evacuation to begin at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

Hyde County officials on Tuesday night issued a mandatory evacuation of Ocracoke Island. Island visitors must begin evacuating at 5 a.m. Wednesday followed by the evacuation of all residents at 5 a.m. Thursday. After Thursday, only emergency personnel and vendors will be allowed onto the island.

Gov. Pat McCrory has directed the state ferry system to assist with the evacuation of Ocracoke Island.

"We are doing everything we can to prepare for Hurricane Matthew and ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors," McCrory said. "I urge everyone on Ocracoke Island to take these orders seriously."

Fishel warned that even though the forecast Tuesday night showed the potential for the storm to avoid North Carolina, residents should listen to authorities and evacuate when suggested.

By Wednesday, the storm will enter the Bahamas, picking up speed before heading closer to Florida on Thursday. An updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center would put the storm off the eastern coast of Florida between Thursday night and Friday morning, and it could begin impacting the Carolinas late Friday.

Even multiple days out, many coastal communities were making early preparations for the storm on Tuesday. Tommy Batson, the assistant emergency management director in Pender County, said the area is planning for a "direct hit" from Matthew.

"We've got to stand up and be ready. It's a lot of work, but we've got to protect the public and keep people warned," he said.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington issued a mandatory evacuation for all students. All students must leave the campus by 12 p.m. Thursday and all classes, events and activities scheduled to occur after 5 p.m. Wednesday have been canceled.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for two-thirds of North Carolina on Monday to better prepare for a potential hit later this week from Hurricane Matthew.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler asked for the declaration, McCrory said, so farmers could speed up their harvesting in the coming days. The declaration, which covers 66 counties in the central and eastern parts of the state, will lift restrictions on the loads agricultural trucks can carry and the hours they can operate.

"Already, many crops are destroyed due to previous storms and previous floods that we've had during the past 10 days," the governor said. "We don't want to have other crops ruined for the year."


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