AP NEWS

National Weather Service: The time to prepare for Florence is now

September 10, 2018

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The time to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Florence – a storm that could make landfall as a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) – is now.

That is the message from the National Weather Service Office in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“Florence is forecast to become a major hurricane during Monday and approach the Southeast U.S. coast later this week,” Steven Pfaff, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office, wrote in the Sunday evening briefing on the storm.

“All interests in the Carolinas are strongly encouraged to begin preparing emergency kits and take initial protective actions. Be ready to take additional actions during the next couple of days, and listen for recommendations from local officials.”

As of Sunday, the National Hurricane Center expected the Carolinas to begin to feel tropical-storm-force winds from Florence as early as Wednesday evening.

In the Pee Dee, the bulk of the impact from Florence would be Thursday into Friday, according to Pfaff.

Myrtle Beach declared a state of emergency Sunday while North Myrtle Beach’s city council will meeting at 2 p.m. Monday with two items on the agenda. Both involve declaring a state of emergency.

“Florence continues to strengthen and has the potential to become a dangerous major hurricane,” Pfaff wrote in the briefing. “The storm will continue on a westerly track through tonight, then a northwest track Wednesday into Friday.

“While it remains too early to determine which area will receive direct impacts along the Southeast U.S. coast, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Florence can make landfall as a dangerous major hurricane.”

Florence, which was at one time a major hurricane before it dropped to tropical storm strength for a couple of days, again reached hurricane strength Sunday morning.

The center of the cone of probability would have the storm hit land around Wilmington and track inland and still be a hurricane when it hits Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The cone itself covers the coast from the Georgia/South Carolina line to just south of Washington, D.C.

The Pee Dee and Grand Strand could experience dangerous winds, flooding of low-lying areas and tornadoes. The Grand Strand could experience dangerous maritime conditions as well as a dangerous storm surge.

“Based on the latest track the tropical storm force winds are most likely to arrive at the coast by early Thursday morning,” Pfaff wrote. “Tropical storm force winds would most likely arrive at inland areas Thursday based on the latest track.”

Rainfall totals in the Pee Dee, which had been in the 10-inch range based on previous storm tracks, have fallen to five inches or less, according to a graphic included with the briefing. Areas of east central North Carolina, along Interstate 95, are forecast to receive 15 inches with the current storm track.

“The total amount and distribution will greatly depend on the eventual track,” Pfaff wrote.

Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference Sunday that people should “pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore.”

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division tweeted Sunday that officials there are “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”

In South Carolina, Charleston city officials were offering sandbags for residents to fill. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged residents to secure their homes but said it’s too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.

Drawing energy from the warm water, Florence could be a fearsome Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph or more by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters urged residents from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to get ready – and not just for a direct blow to the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall after coming ashore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding.

Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.

“Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water,” Ryan Deeck, the grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News. “They’re coming in and buying water and plates, and that’s about all they’re buying.”

North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chain saws ready.

The governors of North Carolina and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the storm to get ready.

“Be prepared!” Pfaff wrote. “Review your hurricane plan if you have not done so already, then begin to put together your emergency kit containing enough water and nonperishable food, consider where you may go if evacuations are ordered.”