Matthew’s track shifts, but local officials remain on alert

Published 3:36 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A shift in Hurricane Matthew’s track could lessen the storm’s potential impacts on Beaufort County and the rest of eastern North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tracking models developed early Wednesday morning had Matthew tracking farther off North Carolina’s coastal areas. Forecasts made Wednesday have Matthew off the coast to the south and east, reducing the storm’s effects on the region, according to the National Weather Service office in Newport.

“At the 12 o’clock conference call (Wednesday), those of you who were here, heard the director of the National Hurricane Center say, ‘We’re not as confident as we’d like to be about the track. There could be movement back and forth,’” said John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-services director, at the meeting of the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center support team Wednesday afternoon. “The confidence level, to quote one weather person, was low. … Even with the current track, we can expect 2 to 5 inches of rain. As we all know, as wet as the ground is, 2 to 5 inches of rain could result in us doing some of the same things we did two weeks ago here in the city of Washington, Belhaven and some other places.”

Pack noted that Tuesday’s track data had Matthew going through the center of Beaufort County. “I will just suggest that we need to remain vigilant, watch the track and continue to monitor.”

Beaufort County is under a coastal flood advisory through the weekend, as are Craven, Pamlico and Hyde counties. If Matthew follows a more easterly track, tropical storm force winds are the most probably scenario late Saturday and early Sunday, mostly limited to areas along the coast, according to NWS forecasts. Heavy rains could arrive Friday, ahead of the storm’s winds.

“The threat of dangerous, life-threatening conditions has diminished with the new forecast track, but we urge continued caution across eastern North Carolina. We are hopeful this model trend continues and the most significant impacts are not realized in eastern North Carolina. However, it is too early to completely let our guard down,” said Scott Kennedy, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Newport. That office, in an advisory issued about noon Wednesday, also alerted people to the possibility Matthew could change its track several times before reaching the state’s coast this weekend, possibly taking a course bringing it closer to the coast.

Based on the new tracking models, the most likely impacts on eastern North Carolina will be the following:

  • minor to moderate storm surge and high surf;
  • tropical storm force winds that could produce minor damage along the coast;
  • heavy rainfall and flash flooding are still possible;
  • extremely dangerous conditions for boaters;
  • rip currents.

Visitors to Ocracoke Island were leaving Wednesday after a mandatory evacuation order was issued by Hyde County. The North Carolina Ferry Division has extra crews on standby if needed to help with the evacuation. Property owners, critical infrastructure providers (power, water, communications) and suppliers to businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants, were allowed on the barrier island Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, ferries serving Ocracoke were scheduled to run Thursday but not Friday, but that could change, depending on Matthew’s track.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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