Tropical storm warning issued for area, hurricane warning just south

Forecasters are stressing potentially dangerous flooding as the forecast for Hurricane Matthew continues to evolve.

“It is a dangerous and life-threatening situation with this flooding,” Rich Bandy, with the National Weather Service in Newport, said Friday morning.

Many areas of eastern North Carolina can see up to 12 inches of rain with the storm, with some amounts up to 15 inches.

“It’s going to be the worst flooding since Floyd,” Bandy said of the 1999 hurricane that caused widespread and devastating river flooding throughout the region. “I’m not saying that it’s going to reach that level, but for a lot of areas, it’s going to be the worst flooding since that situation.”

The area is under a flood watch.

“You could have serious flash flooding with this storm,” he said. “We could see inundation of houses and buildings in low-lying areas.”

Bandy said heavier rain should begin to move into the area Saturday morning and would continue through Sunday as the storm moves up the East Coast. The National Hurricane Center on Friday morning shifted Matthew’s projected path slightly north and west, bringing a higher threat to Eastern North Carolina.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the area with winds of at least 39 mph, with gusts potentially up to 60 mph in the Havelock and New Bern area. Carteret and Onslow counties are also under a hurricane watch.

Bandy expected the highest winds to impact the area Saturday morning through early Sunday, depending on the exact track and timing of Matthew. A hurricane warning has been issued for the Cape Fear region up to Surf City.

Matthew is expected to continue to weaken as it rakes the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Friday. It is expected to be a minimal hurricane as it approaches the Cape Fear region of southeast North Carolina on Saturday before curving east away from land and becoming a weaker tropical storm.

Still, Bandy expected some coastal flooding along the Neuse River, with water rising 2 to 5 feet. He expected beach erosion from rough and high seas along the coast.

Bandy also said the storm could be felt long after its winds move away from the area, as river flooding could be an issue through early next week, describing it as potentially “moderate to heavy.”

Pamlico County Schools is closing three hours early Friday, and New Bern postponed its annual MumFest.

As of Friday morning, Matthew had sustained winds of 120 mph and was moving just off the Florida coast.

The Havelock and New Bern areas picked up about three-quarters of an inch of rain late Thursday into early Friday.

Bandy said scattered showers were in the forecast for Friday, and that residents should take the time Friday to prepare for the storm before heavier rain moved in on Saturday. He said residents should be prepared for scattered power outages as heavily saturated ground could weaken the root systems of trees, causing them to come down.

He said the forecast continues to evolve, and the track could shift east again, but “the trend is north and to shift it closer to North Carolina. … It’s a lot worse situation than we were looking at in the past couple of days.”