Hurricane

Updated: Florence — the size of 4 Ohios — may bring ‘prolonged’ storm to Beaufort Co.

Thursday 11 p.m. update: Beaufort County can still expect to see tropical storm conditions this weekend as Hurricane Florence steadily barrels toward the Carolina coast, meteorologists say.

The Category 1 storm is forecast to slow down as it nears landfall and could “linger near the coast,” causing heavy rain and strong winds in the area for extended periods of time, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“It’s not expected to make landfall as a major hurricane anymore,” Christina Speciale, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston said. “We’re expecting it to weaken even further to a tropical storm once it enters into South Carolina.”

Speciale said the slowing of the storm is why meteorologists are expecting it to be such a “prolonged event,” bringing lots of rain and wind to the area.

She said Beaufort County can expect to see mainly tropical storm conditions this weekend, with possible stronger wind bursts. Tropical storm wind speeds are between 39 mph and 73 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Florence has grown substantially in overall size, according to an AccuWeather report. Hurricane-force winds extend 80 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds extend 195 miles outward, Speciale said.

A previous tweet from the weather service said the storm’s cloud field is about the size of four Ohios.

As of the 11 p.m. update, Beaufort County was not under any weather-related watches or warnings, but that may change, Speciale said. She said the National Weather Service in Charleston and the National Hurricane Center were scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to determine if any areas — including Beaufort County — need to be upgraded to a tropical storm watch.

“Despite it being quote unquote only a tropical storm, it’s still a significant event,” Speciale said. She said tropical storms bring heavy rainfall and powerful winds that can lead to power outages and downed trees.

“People are going to get hung up on the category of the storm, but what’s more important to note is that it’s very big and slow moving,” James Carpenter, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston said early Thursday.

The storm’s winds have remained at 90 mph throughout the afternoon, but that hasn’t changed the amount of rain expected over the Lowcountry, he explained.

“That rain is going to happen regardless of category,” Carpenter said. “Hilton Head Island is probably looking at something like 2 to 4 inches of rain with some isolated higher amounts. That’s a big threat, regardless of category.”

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