By Lisa Boykin Batts
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Wrap up your preparations today and make plans to get to your safe place by Wednesday night or first thing Thursday morning in advance of Hurricane Florence. That’s the advice of Scott Sharp, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“The first thing is to protect your life,” he said Tuesday morning. “This is a big storm. This is going to be catastrophic in parts of eastern North Carolina.”
Wilson County is under a Tropical Storm Watch and could receive anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of rain, Sharp said, with 15 to 16 inches possible in areas. He emphasized these numbers are conservative estimates; totals could be higher depending on the track of the storm and if it stalls.
“We’re going to get a lot of rainfall in a relatively short time,” he said, adding flooding could be “life-changing” for many.
The expected rainfall here over three days could equal almost four months of average rainfall. Sharp added that some areas could see flooding where he hasn’t flooded before.
Sharp said anyone living or traveling along regional rivers, including the Tar and Neuse, as well as Contentnea Creek should take extra precautions. Don’t wait for emergency responders to rescue you.
“Get to a safe place now or by Thursday morning,” he said.
Sharp said weather conditions will deteriorate as we go through the day on Thursday with rain, a little wind and the chance of tornadoes. By sunset Thursday and through most of Friday, our area will see the worst of the conditions, he said.
The rain threat remains through Saturday, and flooding can last several days.
Strong, sustained winds could reach 30 to 50 mph with gusts over 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service forecast. Tropical storm force winds are rated at 39 to 73. Hurricane force winds start at 74 mph. High winds will bring down trees and power lines, so residents are urged to be prepared to go without electricity for several days.
Sharp doesn’t like to compare hurricanes because each one is different, but he did note that Florence is a stronger storm than Matthew, which hit the state in 2016. He said there will be more of a wind issue with Florence compared to Matthew, but rainfall could be around the same if not more. Matthew’s floods were devastating for many areas of eastern North Carolina.
Florence is a category 4 hurricane with winds at 130 mph as of 8 a.m.