As residents prepared Tuesday for the possible arrival of Hurricane Florence, officials and forecasters stressed one important theme: The storm could be a killer.
“People should prepare for life-threatening impacts,” Erik Heden, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Newport, said Tuesday morning.
Hurricane Florence is threatening Eastern North Carolina with winds that could top 130 mph at landfall, according to forecasters, and more than a foot of rainfall.
Florence exploded into a category 4 monster on Monday and was maintaining that strength Tuesday morning as it made its way west across the Atlantic Ocean toward a possible landfall somewhere along the North Carolina coast late Thursday or early Friday. Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate beginning as early as Thursday morning, according to forecasters.
As of Tuesday morning, the area was under a hurricane watch and storm surge watch.
Heden stressed that residents should not focus on the exact point of landfall, which as of Tuesday morning was projected to be along Onslow or Pender counties.
“Major impacts are expected well away from the center,” he said.
Those impacts include winds that could reach 100 mph at inland locations like Trenton, rainfall that could approach 20 inches in places like Havelock and New Bern, storm surges that could be 6 feet above ground in flood-prone areas along the Neuse River and its tributaries in Pamlico and Craven counties, and inland flooding that could increase river levels by 20 feet days after the storm hits.
“In simple terms, that’s major flooding,” Heden said.
He encouraged residents to have all their storm preparations completed by the end of Wednesday.
Many residents were heeding that advice. Some area gas stations had run out of fuel by Monday evening or had only premium gasoline left, but stations reported more was on the way. Bread and water supplies at area grocery stores were depleted, but again, store managers reported that more supplies were on the way in.
And for those hoping that somehow Florence would turn north and perhaps miss the area, Heden was not optimistic.
“I wish we had better news,” he said.
School systems were closing, events were being canceled, and Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point planned a shutdown after the first shift on Tuesday.
Craven County was scheduled to open shelters at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Shelter locations include Havelock High School, Brinson Elementary in New Bern, Ben Quinn Elementary in New Bern, which is designated as pet friendly, and Farm Life Elementary in Vanceboro.
Residents should bring their own pillows, blankets, medication, hygiene items, special foods, baby formula (if needed) and any other special needs items. There may be times that the shelters are without the ability to support medical devices and equipment.
Residents are prohibited from bringing weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, perishable food items, radios or televisions into an emergency shelter. Small hand-held devices can be used with headphones.
For more information on emergency shelters, call Craven County Emergency Management at 636-6608. Craven County government emergency management updates will appear on the Craven County website at www.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page @cravencounty and the Craven County Emergency Management Twitter account @cravencountyem. Visit the Craven County website to register to receive emergency notifications via text, email and phone calls through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.