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Hurricane Florence turns south, heads toward Pee Dee with rain and wind

September 12, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. -- Hurricanes are unpredictable and any turn to the south would be bad news for Florence, that’s what Florence County Emergency Management Agency Director Dusty Owens said during Tuesday afternoon’s Florence County hurricane briefing.

Hurricane Florence’s projected path did exactly that last night -- turned south and slowed down. Florence County’s Emergency Operations Center Wednesday morning increased its readiness standing to OPCON2 -- not yet 24-hour standing but staff on hand and resources standing by.

The 5 a.m. forecast for the storm has it now coming ashore at the North/South Carolina border early Saturday morning and heading south toward Johnsonville and Hemingway by early Sunday morning and then Augusta, Ga., by early Monday morning.

Previous projections had it coming ashore near Jacksonville, N.C.

“A much slower track has led to greater uncertainty as to where the storm goes late Friday into the weekend,” Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, N.C., said in the Wednesday morning briefing on the storm.

If the storm came ashore on that track and at that speed, Florence along with the southern and western areas of the Pee Dee could expect about 10 inches of rain while areas closer to the North Carolina border would receive up to 12 inches, according to the briefing.

“Since the track is slower and the storm will reside in the area for a longer period of time rainfall amounts are expected to be extreme,” Pfaff wrote in the briefing. “20-30-inch rainfall amounts are possible in the axis of heaviest rain across southeast North Carolina.”

“Significant river flooding is expected as a result of excessive rainfall across area hydrologic basins,” according to the briefing.

An arc that includes all of Marion County and most of Dillon and Marlboro Counties County are firmly in the moderate risk of flooding while eastern Dillon County has a high risk of flooding.

Florence sits on the line of elevated and moderate risk of flooding while points west and south have only an elevated risk of flooding.

Along the coast the new path could bring a storm surge of 4-6 feet ashore at Myrtle Beach and 6-9 feet at North Myrtle Beach into North Carolina, according to the briefing. There would be large, wind-driven breakers atop the storm surge.

Any storm surge above three feet is considered life threatening, Pfaff said.

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