Hurricane

Monday evening track shows Beaufort County well outside Hurricane Florence forecast cone

Editor’s note: In a press conference Tuesday morning, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties. To read more, click here.

6 p.m. Monday update: Gov. Henry McMaster issued evacuation orders for Beaufort County, and other counties along the coast, starting at noon Tuesday as South Carolina prepares for Hurricane Florence. Here is the latest on evacuation orders.

The projected path of the hurricane shifted north as of an update from forecasters Monday.

The latest storm track from the National Hurricane Center shows the southern half of South Carolina — including Beaufort County — outside the forecast cone, the area forecasters believe the storm could make landfall. But the slightest shift could have major implications for other areas, said Emily McGraw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“We’re still telling people to prepare for a potential Category 4 storm,” McGraw said.

Florence was upgraded to a Category 4 storm just after noon Monday, as the rapidly strengthening storm moved westward through the Atlantic, according to the hurricane center. Maximum wind speeds have increased to 140 mph, and the storm is expected to strengthen and approach the South Carolina or North Carolina coast as an “extremely dangerous” hurricane through Thursday, the center said in a 5 p.m. update.

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“This one is particularly big, particularly strong,” McMaster said during a news conference Monday afternoon. “Without going into too much detail, the atmospheric conditions are such that there’s nothing stopping it. It’s coming right straight to us. When it hits the Gulf Stream, it’s going to rev up even more.”

While Beaufort County sits outside Florence’s forecasted track, residents and visitors are urged to keep a close eye on the potentially devastating storm.

Tropical storm-force winds can extend more than 100 miles from the center of the storm and hurricane-force winds 50 miles from the center, a National Weather Service official said during the news conference.

The hurricane is expected to hit somewhere in the Carolinas, move slowly and dump lots of rain, McMaster said.

“We will get a whole lot of water that we haven’t seen in a long time,” he said.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, Florence was located about 580 miles southeast of Bermuda and was moving west at 13 mph, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center. By noon, the hurricane had strengthened to a Category 4 storm with sustained winds at 130 mph, and further strengthening is expected.

The storm, which was a Category 1 at 5 a.m. Monday, had been moving west-northwest earlier on Monday, but shifted direction somewhat.

It’s impossible to tell this early what the change means for the storm’s ultimate landfall, said Ron Morales, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“If it wobbles or goes more westerly, that could mean a different part of the coast could get hit,” he said, explaining that Beaufort County residents should be preparing regardless.

“I wouldn’t be fixated on a motion or a center line,” Morales said.

Experts at the weather service warn residents on the coast not to focus on the track, as the effects of a possible Category 4 or 5 storm will be felt far away from the storm’s center.

There is also a moderate risk for rip currents for Beaufort County and coastal Jasper County, the bulletin said.

Beaufort County forecast

Monday night

Mostly cloudy. A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Lows in the mid-70s. Southwest winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20 percent.

Tuesday

Partly sunny. A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs in the upper 80s. North winds around 5 mph, becoming southeast in the afternoon. Chance of rain 50 percent.

Tuesday Night

Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid-70s. East winds around 5 mph. Chance of rain 20 percent.

Wednesday

Partly sunny with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 80s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50 percent.

Wednesday Night

Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid-70s. Chance of rain 20 percent.

Thursday

Tropical storm conditions possible. Mostly sunny with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs around 90. Chance of rain 30 percent.

Thursday Night

Tropical storm conditions possible. Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid-70s. Chance of rain 20 percent.

Friday

Tropical storm conditions possible. Partly sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs around 90. Chance of rain 20 percent.

Friday Night

Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid-70s. Chance of rain 20 percent.

This story will be updated throughout the day. Check back for the most recent information.

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