Beaufort County could see tropical-storm winds between 30 and 40 mph from Hurricane Florence as early as midday Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.
“Probably maybe midday would be the earliest that it would get (to Beaufort County),” said Mike Emlaw, meteorologist for the weather service. “The most likely scenario would be Thursday night more toward Friday morning.”
Those winds most likely would be on the lower end of the tropical-storm range, with 30 to 35 mph winds and gusts of 40 mph, Emlaw said.
Even those tropical-storm wind predictions are only 50 to 60 percent possibilities, Emlaw said. However, that possibility has been “trending up” as the storm gets closer.
“It’s about as uncertain as it can get with it this close to us,” Emlaw said.
As of the 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is continuing to move northwest at 166 mph, with winds in the 125 mph range.
Hurricane-force winds (74 to 95 mph) are extending out up to 70 miles from the center of the storm. Tropical storm force winds are being felt as much as 175 miles around the storm.
Tropical storm force winds are in the 39 mph to 73 mph range, says NOAA. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the Carolinas on Friday, says the National Hurricane Center, but tropical-storm force winds are expected to show up somewhere along the coast late Wednesday or Thursday morning.
But the storm is giving hints of possibly shifting, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Those possible shifts are causing the “cone of uncertainty” to expand.
The highest wind speed recorded in the county for Hurricane Matthew, which hit in 2016, was 88 mph recorded on Hilton Head Island. When Hurricane Irma reached the county as a tropical storm last year, the highest wind speed was 76 mph recorded on Parris Island.
The worst-case scenario for Florence is if the storm travels southwest and it stalls near North Carolina, Emlaw said. That scenario could bring sustained gusts of over 70 mph to the county.
“Initial damage from something right around 74 mph, just a little bit over hurricane-force winds, could damage trees, uproot trees, snap off trees, certainly take shingles off roofs and siding off houses,” Emlaw said. “I would not want to be in a mobile home in that situation. Those kinds of winds could turn over a mobile home.”