Heavy rain, wind and flash flooding pose hazards
Published 8:10 pm Thursday, October 6, 2016
Monitoring is the watchword for officials in eastern North Carolina when it comes to Hurricane Matthew.
As Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane Thursday afternoon, treks along the southern East Coast along a projected eastward path that could keep it off the North Carolina coast, Beaufort County and other inland areas in eastern North Carolina can expect heavy rainfall and winds of 30 mph to 40 mph during the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center. A northerly shift in the storm’s track could bring worse conditions to the region.
“Our primary concern for central and eastern North Carolina is the increasing amount of rainfall that’s being forecast across our area, generally, 4 to 10 inches possible,” said Rich Bandy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Newport on Thursday during a conference call with local, state and federal emergency-response agencies. “Flashing flooding is possible. Another concern we have … is a lot of our water levels along our sounds are running above normal, 1 to 2 feet.”
Beaufort County and surrounding areas are under a flash-flood watch until further notice.
With saturated ground already a problem, more rainfall and high winds could result in trees falling, causing power outages and blocking roads, which could hamper potential rescue efforts, according to local and state emergency-management officials. John Pack, director of Beaufort County’s Emergency Management Department, advises area law enforcement and emergency-response personnel to be alert for downed trees during any responses they making during the weekend.
Although projected paths have Matthew heading north then doing a fishhook turn to the east today and Saturday, some National Weather Service forecasters and some state emergency-management officials continue to indicate they have “low confidence” in that turn taking place. “Even through the track hasn’t been changing from the National Hurricane Center’s forecast, there’s still potential that it would shift. … I think if it does shift to the left and north, I think the most likely scenario would be it would get a little bit closer. The concern is the impacts could spread farther inland, but the worst of the storm looks like it should remain off our coast,” Bandy said.
At noon Thursday, Pack’s office had received reports of the east end of Old Pamlico Beach Road being under water and that barricades were up in downtown Belhaven. In Hyde County, evacuations continued Thursday, although county officials rescinded the mandatory evacuation order issued for Ocracoke earlier this week. As of 5 a.m. Thursday, the N.C. Ferry Division reported removing 1,095 people from the island.
“Water levels across a large portion of the area have been running at least a foot to as much as 2 feet above normal, so it will not take much to push more water onto land in low-lying areas, creating widespread minor nuisance type flooding. The primary threat for 1 to 3 feet above ground, or 2 to 5 feet above normal, will be mostly in areas adjacent to the southern Pamlico Sound and along the Neuse and Pamlico rivers. This could include portions of southern Hatteras Island and Ocracoke. These numbers will be refined as the storm gets closer,” according to a statement issued by forecasters at the NWS office in Newport.
To help alleviate flooding in the Jack’s Creek basin in Washington, Frankie Buck, the city’s public-works director, plans to lower the creek level as low as possible before rains associated with Matthew and other weather events begin this weekend, according to another city official. Lowering the creek’s level allows more room in the basin to store stormwater runoff. Without lowering the creek’s level, that runoff would remain in neighborhoods, according to city officials.
“Frankie is going to pump that creek down to just about where you can see the fish flopping in the mud,” said Robbie Rose, Washington’s fire chief, at an Emergency Operation Center support team meeting Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Nicole continues its northwest trek across the Atlantic Ocean with sustained winds of 80 mph, just below hurricane strength. It’s moving northwest at about 6 mph. As of Thursday afternoon, it was about 300 miles south of Bermuda.