WILMINGTON — Earlier today, Governor Roy Cooper placed North Carolina under a state of emergency, activating the National Guard, and urging residents to prepare for the worst in regard to Hurricane Irma’s path.
After passing through the Caribbean, Irma is on track to make landfall as a “major hurricane” in Florida on Sunday morning, before tracking up the coast towards the Carolinas.
So, what should residents of the Cape Fear expect out of this storm?
According to Steve Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, that may vary, depending on the storm’s next move.
Pfaff said that, while all models generally show the storm making a northward turn over the next couple of days, when that turn occurs will be critical to predicting its severity in our area.
Based on the current model, the storm will begin tracking north sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, sending the storm over land before heading up the coast, making landfall again between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.
If this scenario plays out, the storm would head toward the western portion of North Carolina, keeping the worst of the weather out of our area.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 7, 2017
However, should an early turn take place, southeastern North Carolina could be in for an “interesting” ride.
“The other scenario would be if it could turn a little bit sooner, maybe graze the East coast of Florida or stay just offshore,” Pfaff said. “Then we could be dealing with a significant storm as it approaches the Carolinas.”
According to Pfaff, this would allow the storm to retain its strength as it moves over water, expanding as it approaches the Carolina Coast.
“Some of the impacts we could have as a contingency would certainly be an increase in tornado activity, certainly higher winds than if it was a more inland track across Florida, and there could be some storm surge as well,” he said.
While at the moment the Cape Fear seems out of the line of sight, the effects of this storm will be felt regardless.
“We can’t entirely rule out a landfall in the Cape Fear area,” Pfaff said. “There’s some guidance that indicates that’s possible.”