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.
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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.”
Carpenter said rain chances will gradually increase into the weekend.
The Beaufort County forecast says tropical storm-level conditions will are possible starting on Friday.
“We probably are going to see some gusts here and maybe stronger winds Saturday into the weekend,” Carpenter said.
A high surf advisory expired at 5 p.m., and a rip-current risk expired at 8 p.m. Thursday.
“Everyone should remain out of the water,” said an advisory from the weather service. “Keep a clear
distance away from the ocean. Structures such as piers and jetties will be particularly treacherous.”
As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Florence was located about 60 miles southeast Wilmington, N.C.and was moving at 6 mph.
A storm-surge watch and hurricane watch were in effect from Edisto Beach stretching north into North Carolina.
This story will be updated. Check back for the latest information available.