Sept. 13, 2018, 2:30 p.m.
By Peter Vankevich
Bands of rain from Hurricane Florence began hitting Ocracoke this morning and the National Weather Service in their morning briefing via a webinar reported a gust on the island of 50 mph. At high tide this morning, water began covering the area of Silver Lake Drive and Irvin Garrish Highway as the storm’s impacts began on multiple levels.
For starters, it’s not enough that one of the biggest hurricanes is about to hit the East Coast of the Carolinas, but the island along with the rest of the region will also be under a tornado watch until 9 p.m.
The Hyde County Board of Commissioners issued a curfew for all of Hyde County, including Ocracoke, effective at 9 p.m. this evening (Sept. 13). The curfew will be in effect daily from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice.
North Carolina Emergency Management officials have reported that all Wake County shelters are full. As of this morning they are now directing anyone that still needs to evacuate to LJVM Coliseum, 2825 University Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC 27105. For any assistance finding shelters, call 211.
Overwash has covered the road on the way to the ferry dock at Hatteras Inlet and several village roads are starting to be covered with water. On the other side of Hatteras Inlet, the N.C. Department of Transportation announced at 1 p.m. that N.C. 12 is closed in both directions between the Bonner Bridge and Hatteras Village due to ocean overwash.
For many major storms in the past, overwash on Pea Island, and especially the “S Curve” region near Mirlo Beach on Hatteras Island, has blocked vehicle access to Ocracoke until the roads were repaired which often has taken several days or more,and there is a strong likelihood this will occur with Florence.
Hurricane Florence was downgraded overnight to a high Category 2 hurricane and at noon her sustained winds were at 105 mph. The biggest concern is not the wind speed, but whether it will stall or move very slowly as it approaches the mainland in the Wilmington area. This could have a major impact on the level and duration of the storm surge and flooding throughout the region.
Jessica Whitehead, the coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant, warned people not to let their guard down. “It may diminish in speed, but it has expanded in size and remains very dangerous,” she said.
Current storm surge/flooding estimates for Ocracoke are in the four to six feet range, though this could change as the National Weather Service is quick to point out. Hurricane Matthew in 2016 had one of the highest flooding records in recent memory with four feet, seven inches.
Rain estimates have diminished a bit but are expected to contribute to the anticipated massive record flooding in much of eastern North Carolina and into South Carolina. Where Florence is expected to make landfall, estimates are 20 to 30 inches. Ocracoke is expected to get six to eight inches. Catastrophic river flooding will remain a problem after the storm passes.
In the village, the Variety Store closed in the early afternoon and will reopen when conditions are safe.
In addition to strongly warning folks not to let their guard down, Jessica Whitehead said they should check in on their neighbors when safe to do. North Carolina Sea Grant is preparing recovery plans for the region.
If you have any questions or immediate concerns, contact the Hyde County Emergency Operations Center at 252-926-3715.