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By Peter Vankevich
Except for record heavy rains in July on the Outer Banks, the region enjoyed a quiet summer with little major storm activity. This has changed.
Most significantly, those along the Southeast coast are facing a few days of uncertainty but need to prepare for the likelihood of a hurricane strike next Wednesday or Thursday.
Both North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster have issued executive orders declaring states of emergency in preparation of Tropical Storm Florence. Cooper also waived transportation rules to help farmers harvest and transport their crops more quickly.
“While it’s still too early to know the storm’s path, we know we have to be prepared,” Cooper said in a press release on Friday. “During harvest, time is of the essence. Action today can avoid losses due to Florence.”
Earlier in the week, Florence, way out in the eastern Atlantic off Africa’s coast, reached hurricane status, but due to wind shear from the north it was downgraded to a tropical storm. As it continues to move toward the west over the next few days, it is forecast to rapidly intensify, potentially reaching Category 4 strength with winds forecast to reach 145 mph just off the shores of the southeastern United States. On the National Weather Service forecast track today, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday.
The National Weather Service in Morehead City said today that it is still too early to pin down exact details of local impacts. Various models show it striking from North Carolina down to northern Florida,
Justin L. Gibbs, Hyde County’s emergency services director, said today the exact path of Florence as it approaches the southeastern U.S. coastline will depend heavily on the position and strength of the blocking high pressure that is expected to develop north of Bermuda and extend westward over the eastern U.S., and so far, there has not been much more clarity on those important details.
Gibbs said there is a growing probability that Hyde County will receive direct impacts from Florence. He urged individuals to evaluate their household preparedness by checking and building their emergency preparedness kit, discussing evacuation plans, validating insurance coverage, cataloging valuables, etc. Non-resident property owners should consider capitalizing on this weekend and use it as an opportunity to secure their properties ahead of the storm. He added that the Ocracoke Deputy Control Group will begin meeting this evening to receive daily weather briefings and discuss emergency protective measures.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore issued a press release urging beach visitors to use caution due to dangerous ocean conditions as large swells and high threats of rip currents associated with this major storm will produce life-threatening ocean conditions along Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.
Due to these conditions, Superintendent David Hallac is strongly urging all beach visitors to stay out of the Atlantic Ocean until dangerous conditions subside. The press release warned it is possible that beach access ramps and routes may be impassable if the storm continues its current track.
Islanders at the Ocracoke Coffee Company shop on Back Road spent the early morning on the porch enjoying beautiful weather and speculating on where the storm may make land fall.
Marissa Gross, owner of Down Creek Gallery, took a wait-and-see attitude. “It’s too early to start worrying, but whatever will be, will be.”
A press release from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore said large swells and high threats of rip currents associated with Tropical Storm Florence will produce life-threatening ocean conditions along the beaches. Due to these conditions, Superintendent David Hallac is strongly urging all beach visitors to stay out of the Atlantic Ocean until dangerous conditions subside.
As the storm continues its current track, it’s possible that beach access ramps and routes may be impassable.
Helpful information on beach and ocean conditions is posted regularly on the Seashore’s website at http://go.nps.gov/beachaccess.
Expect more on this storm, including important updates from the N.C. Ferry Division, Hyde County and the National Park Service as more information on Florence’s track becomes more predictable.
Other forming storm systems are active in the Atlantic as tropical storms Isaac and Helene have joined Florence in the Atlantic Basin. Helene, located off the west coast of Africa, will bring tropical-storm-force conditions to the Cabo Verde Islands Sunday afternoon. Farther west, Isaac will track toward the Lesser Antilles this week. Both may become hurricanes.
To get updates, check out the National Weather Service in Morehead City by clicking here.
The “conga line.”