Published: 2016-10-03 14:23:00
Updated: 2018-07-13 13:38:51
Posted October 3, 2016 2:23 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."
The declaration also will help utility trucks and other resources move into place in advance of the hurricane, he said.
"We want to make sure we have everything in place early," McCrory said, noting some ares still have high water from recent rains and saturated ground sets the stage for lots of downed trees and power lines.
"I'm hoping that this is a false alarm, but we can't gamble and we won't gamble with people's lives and the livelihood of many people up and down the coast," he said.
Despite the fact that some computer models keep the storm out at sea, Wilmington as well as Myrtle Beach and Charleston, S.C., are in the forecast cone, according to the National Weather Service.
"(It's) a strong storm, a big storm," state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. "It will create issues for North Carolina even if it hits us with a glancing blow."
Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane Monday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. Sprayberry said tropical storm-force winds extended out as far as 200 miles from the eye of the storm, while hurricane-force winds were 30 miles out from the center.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Matthew was expected to pass across or close to the southwestern tip of Haiti on Monday before reaching Cuba on Tuesday.
The speed of Matthew, the intensity of a cold front moving across North Carolina this week and the movement of a ridge of high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean will determine how close the hurricane will get to the coast, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
The cone of uncertainty shifted west in the latest forecasts and now "comes dangerously close to Florida," and the storm could make landfall somewhere in that state, Fishel said.
"Assuming it doesn't do that and it just skirts the coast, then it would eventually turn toward the north and east, and of course, the big question will be, how soon does it do that?" he said. "If it does it sooner, North Carolina gets off easier. If it does it later, then it's a problem as we head toward Friday and Saturday."
Fishel said the storm would have big impacts on the North Carolina coast even if the center of the hurricane doesn't make landfall.
North Carolina officials are in daily contact with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials about potential evacuations and with county officials statewide to determine their needs, Sprayberry said.
Cumberland County Emergency Management Director Randy Beeman said Matthew is going to have a terrible impact in the Sandhills even if it stays offshore.
"Those soils are very saturated, and so we do anticipate with winds, naturally they're going to blow over trees, and it will have impact possibly to electrical utilities of all types," Beeman said.
Unlike tornadoes and flash flooding, a hurricane gives officials time send out alerts and residents time to prepare, he said.
"You can get your resources together, get your kits together," he said. "You need to provide your water, all the medicines, make sure you have everything in order, your insurance papers that you know where they are, that they're safe and prepare to evacuate if you need to."
McCrory urged people to keep up with weather updates and put together those necessary emergency supplies now instead of waiting until Thursday. He also asked drivers to be extra watchful for farm equipment out on the roads over the next few days.