Area residents likely woke up to a very nasty day this morning when Hurricane Florence brings torrential rain, heavy winds and no sunshine.
The 48-hour period from late Thursday night until Saturday will bring a variety of weather conditions, most of them bad, as the hurricane continues on its trek westward.
“It’s pretty much the same scenario we’ve been painting,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Sharp. “A lot of rain, very heavy at times, and some wind gusts, very strong winds.”
Mr. Sharp said residents in the local area can expect to see sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts near 50 mph. All while the rain continues to fall torrentially.
“Those stronger winds will be just after daybreak Friday and last most of the day,” he said. “They’ll slowly decrease — and I would emphasize the word slowly — Friday night. It will still be pretty breezy on Saturday, but the strongest winds will occur during the daylight hours on Friday.”
The amount of rain residents will see can vary from 7 to 10 inches or more, with 15 inches not being out the realm of possibility or exaggerated. He said with a slow moving storm like Florence, totals could reach the extreme level.
“The worst case scenario would probably be 15 inches,” he said. “But a sure bet would be somewhere in the 7 to 10 range. The 7 inches may be conservative with the 10 inches maybe closer to reality and if you get 12 inches I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”
He predicted rain could move in late Thursday afternoon or Thursday night ahead of Friday’s downpours that will be constant and at times torrential.
“Very heavy, especially if you get one of those bands, it could come down hard and heavy for an hour or two then let up,” Mr. Sharp said. “Then another band will come across you and last for an hour or two then let up for an hour, then another band will come in for an hour or two.”
Mr. Sharp describes the rains will not only be torrential, they will also, for intents and purposes, be blinding at times. He said visibility could be zero making moving around outside nearly impossible.
“When its coming down hard and heavy you’re not going to be able to see in front of you,” he said. “You’ll get a lot of rainfall in a short period of time.”
Moderate to heavy rainfall can be expected to remain in place the entire day making travel nothing short of life-threatening, Mr. Sharp said.
“I really believe if you try to venture out Friday and Friday night you’re putting your life and your loved one’s life at risk,” he said.
The effects of Florence will continue to carry over throughout the weekend, with the sun not likely to appear again before Monday. Then it will probably be mixed with some lingering rain showers well beyond the weekend.
“There will still be some rain in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday probably,” Mr. Sharp said. “As far as torrential rainfall, Friday and Friday night will be the worst then things will slowly improve as far as the wind and rain intensity. That will start decrease during the day on Saturday and into Saturday.”
Temperatures are not expected to fall very far. Mr. Sharp said temperatures are expected to remain on the warm side, with plenty of humidity. He characterized temperatures as being tropical.
“It’s going to be tropical,” he said. “It’s going to be humid.”
One thing you might notice will be a lack of thunder and lightning. Mr. Sharp said don’t expect to see the skies light up or to hear the rumble of thunder in the background as the rain follows the wind direction.
“These are tropical systems, so they don’t usually have the circulation aloft,” he said. “It’s essentially water droppage instead of ice crystals, so there’s very little lightning.”
As with any hurricane, there still lies the possibility of tornadoes spawning from the storm. While the chances of a tornado forming in our area are slim, Mr. Sharp said the possibility does exist, mainly on Friday.
“I think the threat will probably be highest Friday afternoon across the region,” he said. “Then the threat will shift more to the south and west after that.”
Crews Attempting To Preserve Cell Towers
A Benson company is staging in Erwin to attempt to preserve cellphone towers during the storm. CB Towers employees were busy filling sandbags in the parking lot of the old Erwin Mills building.
According to company spokesperson Kerin Mooney, the bags will be posted around AT&T cell towers throughout the region. The bags will hopefully help prevent expected flood waters from damaging towers.
Erwin is one of two sites the company is using to stage during the storm. The other site is in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Ms. Mooney said the workers know the importance of their work.
“If we win the communication battle, we win the war,” Ms. Mooney said.
Emergency shelters are active in Harnett, Johnston and Sampson counties. The need for additional shelters in Sampson County has forced officials to make changes.
Due to mandatory evacuations for portions of southern Sampson County, adjustments were made by county officials.
Shelters have been established at Clinton High School, Hobbton Elementary, Hobbton High School, Midway High School and Hobbton Middle School. Officials have also designated Plain View and Roseboro Elementary Schools and Sampson Middle School as shelters. The influx of residents seeking shelter at Union Elementary School has forced Sampson County officials to move people from the school to Clinton High School and Union Elementary will no longer be open.
Emergency pet sheltering will be available at the Sampson County Livestock Arena located at 93 Agriculture Place in Clinton.
Harnett County officials established shelters at Triton and Overhills High Schools, while in Johnston County, shelters opened at Benson Middle School and West Johnston High School. Triton High School and West Johnston High School are pet-friendly shelters.
Shelters in Harnett County were scheduled to open Thursday morning while Johnston County shelters were slated to open Thursday night. Shelters in Sampson County were scheduled to open Thursday afternoon.
Regardless of which shelter residents use, they are reminded to bring bedding, medicine, supplies for infants, comfort items and food items.
Alcoholic beverages and firearms of any kind are not allowed in shelters.
Mail Service Affected By Storm
The U.S. Postal Service has announced it will shut down distribution Thursday for delivery in the 283 zip code area due to the threat of Hurricane Florence. As of press time Thursday afternoon, notification had not been received regarding Friday’s mail.
The Daily Record staff will make every effort to deliver to post office locations that are open.
For those not receiving their delivery of the newspaper, they will be available at The Daily Record office, located at 99 W. Broad St., Dunn. Papers will also be available in newspaper racks and stores as safety considerations allow.
Customers in the following areas affected included:
Curfews And Other Restrictions Remain In Effect
Because of the dangers related to Hurricane Florence, curfews have been ordered in some areas.
The Town of Benson Board of Commissioners has declared a State of Emergency effective until 7 a.m. Monday. The curfew begins each night at 8 p.m. and continues through 7 a.m. the following day.
Sampson County officials have imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. until further notice in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The Town of Erwin has imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. for the duration of the storm.
Restrictions on responding to 911 calls by area first responders have been announced by officials in both Harnett and Johnston counties.
In Harnett County, if the sustained wind speed reaches 50 mph, and in Johnston County 40 mph, emergency responses will be suspended until the wind speed decreases. All calls will be answered once the wind speed is safe for first responders.