The latest models show Hurricane Florence increasing to at least a Category 3 or even a Category 4 before making landfall in southern North Carolina late Thursday, but meteorologists warn it is still too soon to know where the storm will hit and that could include Beaufort County.
Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday. No evacuation order has been called for as of 11 p.m. Sunday.
“There is an increasing risk of two life-threatening impacts from Florence: strong surge at the coast and freshwater flooding from a prolonged heavy rainfall event inland,” a National Hurricane Center report released Sunday says.
Beaufort County remains in the “cone of uncertainty” in an advisory released by the National Hurricane Center at 11 p.m. Sunday. The hurricane has a higher likelihood of making landfall anywhere in the cone.
“Don’t fixate on where the center of the storm is going to be,” Neil Dixon, National Weather Service Charleston meteorologist, said Sunday. He said it is likely that, this many days away from the storm, there will continue to be some fluctuation in the forecast.
Dixon also said it is important that people understand that even if Hurricane Florence makes landfall outside of Beaufort County, there is a high possibility the region will still be impacted.
“The latest forecast has it as a Category 4 as it approaches landfall,” Dixon said. “That is going to be large. The bands are going to stretch a considerable distance. Even if it isn’t forecast to pass over Hilton Head, the bands will cause some direct or indirect impact.”
With winds of 90 mph, Florence was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by the National Hurricane Center on Sunday. The storm was about 685 miles southeast of Bermuda as of 11 p.m. Sunday. It was trekking west at 6 mph.
Swells from the storm already are reaching the East Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Dixon said moderate rip currents are being seen across the S.C. coast.
Localized flooding could be seen as early as Sunday night, Dixon said. He said this is a mixture of Hurricane Florence and a new moon.
Beaufort County will be under a coastal flood advisory from 7 to 10 p.m. during high tide.
“It will be slightly above what is considered flood stage for the coastal areas,” Dixon said. “You will want to watch out for minor flooding in boat ramp areas and roadways next to tidal creeks.”
Dixon said it is too early to get estimates of what a storm surge could look like from Hurricane Florence in Beaufort County.
It is likely the county will at least see building waves running further up the shore than normal, Dixon said. This could possibly result in beach erosion. Property, such as sailboats, should be removed from the beach area.
Beaufort County could start seeing tropical storm winds as early as Wednesday, Dixon said. Tropical storm winds are between 39 and 73 mph.
As the storm is monitored over the next week, meteorologists warn people to review hurricane plans and have supplies ready.
Beaufort and Jasper county emergency personnel continue to monitor the storm.
Basic disaster-kit supplies include water, enough food for three days, flashlights, a first-aid kit, extra batteries, cellphone chargers and local maps.
A complete list of supplies to gather can be found at www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
Another helpful source for knowing your evacuation zone, preparation tips, evacuation maps and how to return home after a storm can be found at scemd.org.