This story has been updated. Read Wednesday’s latest news about Hurricane Michael by clicking here.
Wind and tornadoes remain the largest threat to Beaufort County from Michael — now a Category 3 hurricane, said a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston on Tuesday night.
“The thing I’m most worried about with his particular storm and this particular track is the wind,” said Ron Morales, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.
Weak and short-lived tornadoes — EF0 to EF1 — could arrive in Beaufort County as early as Wednesday afternoon, Morales said. He said it is more likely tornadoes could form Wednesday evening.
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“They can arrive ahead of the storm,” Morales said.
Michael is expected to make landfall along the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a major hurricane — a Category 3 or higher — and then weaken as it tracks northeast across Georgia and South Carolina.
“ It is a pretty solid Hurricane 3,” Morales said. “I have to admit five days ago I would have never guessed it would have become a major hurricane, and more strengthening is expected.”
A tropical storm warning was in effect for all of southeast Georgia and southeast South Carolina, including Beaufort County.
The Lowcountry can expect to begin seeing tropical storm force winds Wednesday night and early Thursday if the storm maintains its current track, Morales said.
The Hilton Head area should see 1.5 to 2 inches of rain through Friday, Morales said. That’s slightly less than the forecast indicated a day ago.
Sustained winds are forecast to be 25-35 mph, and gusts could be in the 45 mph range and higher, Morales said.
The wind likely will be higher on the coastal islands including Hilton Head, Daufuskie, and Hunting islands and in exposed areas along the Broad River.
Morales said wind gusts coming from offshore could be in the 60 mph range.
The wind could down trees and cause power outages.
Will bridges close?
“Travel on elevated roads and bridges, especially high profile, could be an issue here, especially by tomorrow night,” Morales said in a Tuesday morning briefing.
Driving across elevated highways and bridges is dangerous when the wind reaches tropical storm force, experts say.
The Hilton Head bridges would be closed only if an evacuation with lane reversals was ordered, The Island Packet reported in coverage of previous storm threats.
No evacuations have been ordered in South Carolina for Hurricane Michael.
If sustained wind speeds reach tropical storm force of 39 mph, regular patrol vehicles — the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department’s Dodge Chargers and Ford Explorers — will be unable to cross bridges, Lt. Col. Neil Baxley, director of the county’s emergency management division, told The Island Packet for a story published Sept. 13 during preparations for Hurricane Florence.
“All drivers are encouraged to avoid causeways and bridges with wind speeds that high,” Capt. Bob Bromage, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
The Talmadge Memorial Bridge that links Savannah to South Carolina’s Lowcountry normally closes when winds hit tropical storm force, officials told the Packet for the newspaper’s Hurricane Irma coverage a year ago.
Other potential impacts through Thursday, according to the weather service:
- Minor to moderate coastal flooding during each high tide cycle
- Life-threatening rip currents
- Isolated tornadoes possible
- Some beach erosion, especially south-southwest facing beaches.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Michael was moving north at 12 mph and was about 295 miles south of Panama City, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, making it a Category 3.
Beaufort County forecast
Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Low around 78. East wind 15 to 17 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.
Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 84. East wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Tropical storm conditions possible. Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Tropical storm conditions possible. Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. High near 85. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 82.
Mostly clear, with a low around 64.
Source: National Weather Service in Charleston