Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Carolina Beach issues evacuations; bridge closure likely Saturday due to high winds

Carolina Beach Lake was pumped down in anticipation of heavy rainfall from Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Carolina Beach Lake was pumped down in anticipation of heavy rainfall from Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Hannah Leyva.)

Carolina Beach has issued a mandatory evacuation for all non-residents and visitors to the beach town effective immediately as Hurricane Matthew makes its way up the east coast of the United States.

Related story: New Hanover County issues voluntary evacuations, shelters to open Friday evening

Council members met Friday at noon to discuss changes in the predicted track, which has the storm moving further north than forecasted on Thursday. According to Jeremy Hardin, the town’s senior planner and one of the team leaders for emergency management, more than 12 inches of rain are now expected to fall in the town from the storm. Myrtle Grove Sound is expected to be three to four feet higher than usual, according to Hardin.

High wind gusts are also expected, meaning Snow’s Cut Bridge is likely to close. Carolina Beach town officials close the bridge when sustained winds reach 45 miles per hour. According to numbers given out by Hardin, winds are expected to hit 40 miles per hour by 5 a.m. Saturday and be over 50 miles per hour by late Saturday morning.

Though officials agree a closure of the bridge, which is the only road that leads onto and off Pleasure Island, is likely, they are reluctant to give a specific time because of changing weather conditions.

“I don’t want to put a time out right now,” said Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin, who heads emergency management along with Town Manager Michael Cramer. “But we’re looking at around a 24-window for the bridge to close beginning sometime tomorrow morning.”

The most recent forecast also shows 75 mile-per-hour winds possible between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday night, meaning the bridge is likely to stay closed until Sunday morning.

Mayor Dan Wilcox encouraged those looking to evacuate to get out while they can due to the uncertainty over the bridge closure.

“If you do decide to leave, let’s do it before Saturday morning,” Wilcox said.

Town council members also passed a resolution issuing a curfew that will go into effect once the decision to close the bridge is made. Officials are asking that residents staying on the island stay off the streets and other public areas, including the beach. Emergency responders are no longer sent out once sustained winds reach 35 miles per hour.

“Once this wind starts, it could be Sunday before we get first responders to you,” said Wilcox. “We don’t want to put other lives in danger.”

Wilcox said those that do stay on the island can expect “upper tropical storm to lower Category 1” hurricane conditions, and flooding remains the biggest threat to an area with ground already over-saturated from previous rain events.

“Our primary threat is substantial flooding,” Wilcox said. “It’s going to be a long rain duration, and certainly that’s our primary concern.”

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