Forecasters are still uncertain about whether or not Hurricane Matthew, which Wednesday night was a Category 3 storm, will hit southeastern North Carolina.
According to the 7 p.m. update from the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, the latest tracks show the storm hugging the east coast of Florida up to South Carolina before turning east into the Atlantic Ocean.
“There is a high level of uncertainty of this track once it is north of Georgia as several weather models bring the track closer to the coast and recurve the storm later,” the briefing stated. “Specific details on impacts are difficult to determine at this time given the uncertainty in the track; however, the latest advisory implies a large range of impacts.”
Those impacts include heavy rainfall, with totals of between 5 to 12 inches expected. Coastal areas will be hit the hardest, with inland areas expected to get less rain. Flooding remains the greatest concern for the region, as flash floods are possible if large amounts of rain fall in a short amount of time. Due to a very wet September, the ground is already over-saturated, causing potential for trees and other structures (including parts of Wilmington’s Riverwalk) to topple or collapse.
Strong sustained winds of 35 to 55 miles per hour are expected, with gusts of over 60 miles per hour possible, but due to the current track of the storm, hurricane-force winds (sustained at 74 miles per hour or more) are not predicted for southeastern North Carolina. That, however, could change if the track moves once again.
“Any shift to the west will bring much higher values back toward the coast,” the briefing stated.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm’s closest approach to the Cape Fear region will be Saturday, through Saturday night, with rainfall beginning late Friday.
Though North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory issued a state of emergency in 66 counties across the state on Monday, local governments are taking a wait and see approach, with many waiting until Thursday to determine whether or not they should follow suit.
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