Road closures, hundreds of thousands of power outages and evacuation warnings for more than 1 million people. Hurricane Florence on Friday morning reached Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 90 mph. However, the worst is ahead, as the Carolinas face several days of rain and flooding.
As of 3:30 p.m. local time, more than 600,000 North Carolina residents were without power as Florence blew winds of approximately 80 mph. Nearly 100 percent of Carteret and Columbus counties were experiencing power outages. Counties as far inland as Anson County, approximately 150 miles northwest of Wrightsville Beach and just southeast of Charlotte, were experiencing outages for up to 20 percent of all residents.
State Highway 12 on Hatteras Island was shut down Thursday night as the outskirts of Florence began pummeling the area, leading to ocean overwash in several areas. US 17 in River Bend and Bridgeton was closed in both directions. U.S. 70 also was closed at several locations due to weather.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is reporting that major routes throughout the Outer Banks and eastern North Carolina, east of the Interstate 95 corridor, are experiencing widespread flooding. NCDOT advises avoiding those areas. Check road conditions here.
Storm starts to close in near the 6:21:00 mark
More than 84,000 South Carolina residents were without power Friday afternoon, with northeastern counties hit the hardest. South Carolina could experience more power outages as the storm drifts away from its current location.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation was not reporting significant road closures as of 3:30 p.m. local time on Friday. However, motorists should be on high alert as Florence can change its trajectory. Flooding is still likely in parts of the state as significant rainfall is likely throughout the weekend. Road conditions in South Carolina can be found here.
(Photo courtesy NOAA)
Florence to hover above Carolinas through the weekend
At 3 p.m. local time, Florence was near Shallotte, N.C., approximately 30 miles southwest of Wilmington, with sustained winds of 75 mph, maintaining Category 1 status inland. However, Florence is expected to gradually weaken later Friday, with significant weakening over the weekend as the storm moves further inland.
The storm was moving west at approximately 5 mph and is expected to take a slow westward to southwestward trajectory later Friday through Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center of Florence will move further inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday. Florence is then expected to move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Rainfall and flooding will be the most significant and dangerous effect of Florence. Approximately 20-25 inches of additional rainfall is forecast for southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina. Isolated areas can receive anywhere from 30-40 inches. The remainder of the Carolinas into southwest Virginia is expected to experience 5-10 inches, with isolated 15 inches.
One aspect that makes Florence so destructive is the large size of the storm system. The National Hurricane Center reports that hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 195 miles.
Water heights are predicted for the following areas:
- Cape Fear, N.C., to Cape Lookout, N.C. – 7 to 11 feet (locally higher in the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay Rivers.
- Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet, N.C. – 6 to 9 feet.
- South Santee River, S.C., to Cape Fear – 4 to 6 feet.
- Ocracoke Inlet to Salvo, N.C. – 4 to 6 feet.
- Salvo to Duck, N.C. – 2 to 4 feet.
- Edisto Beach, S.C., to South Santee River – 2 to 4 feet.
The National Hurricane Center states that a life-threatening storm surge is already occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and will continue through today and tonight. This surge is also likely along portions of the South Carolina coast. The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound.
Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians through early next week. Damaging hurricane-force winds are occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and are expected to spread to portions of the South Carolina coast later Friday. Strong winds could also spread inland into portions of the Carolinas over the weekend.
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