Risk increases Florence could hit East Coast, SC declares state of emergency
FLORENCE, S.C. — The risk of direct impact from Tropical Storm — and forecast to be Hurricane — Florence increases with each update on the storm though it remains too early to say for sure if it will directly affect the Carolinas.
“All interests in the Carolinas are strongly encouraged to closely monitor this potentially dangerous situation,” Steve Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., wrote in the Saturday evening briefing on the storm.
“Florence is forecast to be a dangerous major hurricane near the southeast U.S. coast by late next week, and the risk of direct impacts continues to increase,” the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.
“We encourage everyone to take time this weekend to review your hurricane plans, as we prepare for any possible impacts from Hurricane Florence. Make sure you have a plan for your family and any necessary items you make need in an emergency situation,” said Levi James of the Florence County Emergency Management Division.
Officials in the Carolinas warned residents Saturday to prepare and to brace for impact.
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday to give his state time to prepare for the possible arrival of the storm. McMaster emphasized that there’s no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.
“This storm is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances,” McMaster said. “We are mobilizing the state’s resources to make sure we are prepared, and the people of South Carolina must not hesitate to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane impacting our coast.”
Members of the state’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) will begin reviewing plans and notifying response staff should they be needed. McMaster and SCEMD Director Kim Stenson will continue to hold conference calls with county emergency managers, SERT agencies and National Weather Service offices. The agencies on these coordination calls share information and discuss emergency plans in advance of any response to the storm.
“If you experienced Hurricane Irma last year, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, or even the flood in 2015: think about all the supplies you didn’t have or safety measures you didn’t have time to implement,” Stenson said. “Now is the time to make sure you have everything you may need: Check your emergency supplies, prepare your home and your property and have a plan for where you will go if the worst-case scenario becomes reality.”
On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and urged residents to use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.
“We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms,” Cooper said.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday Florence had strengthened but remained a tropical storm. It was forecast to become a hurricane either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning and then continue on a westerly track through Saturday before turning northwest, according to the briefing.
The Pee Dee has a 30 percent chance of feeling tropical-storm-force winds within the next five days, according to a graphic included with the briefing.
The cone of potential impact from Florence includes an arc that reaches from near Miami to Wilmington, Delaware, and as far inland as Bristol, Tennessee, and Princeton, West Virginia.
“A potential for 7-10 inches of rainfall exists across portions of the Carolinas, but the amount and distribution will be highly dependent on Florence’s eventual track,” Pfaff wrote in the briefing.
“Florence will produce large swells resulting in rough surf, life-threatening rip currents and maritime hazards, especially during the upcoming week,” according to the briefing.
“Be prepared! At this time it is recommended that you continuously stay informed with the latest information and review your hurricane plans in case action is required during the upcoming week,” Pfaff wrote in the briefing.