Emergency management keeping close tabs on Maria

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beaufort County Emergency Management is keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria as it makes its way westward over the Caribbean.

The previously Category 5 hurricane is the 13th named storm of the 2017 hurricane season; Wednesday, it devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, knocking out power to the entire island. Though a Category 2 storm by late Wednesday, Maria is expected to strengthen to Category 3 again before hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas Thursday night into Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

From there, Maria’s forecasted track appears to follow that of now-tropical-low Jose. However, officials with emergency management are watching it carefully.

“It’s looking favorable for us at the moment,” said Chris Newkirk, head of Beaufort County Emergency Services. “What we’ve seen in the track over the last 48 hours is a continued confidence in that it’s going to go in that direction. That’s not 100-percent confidence, as of yet.”

The storm is expected to continue north on a gradual turn out into the Atlantic. Newkirk said NWS will have firmed up Maria’s forecast by the weekend.

“Jose is actually working in our favor. It’s dropped to a tropical low and is hanging out up by New York, and that will help steer Maria out,” Newkirk said.

If the forecast as of Thursday afternoon stays true, Maria’s effects on Beaufort County will be limited to those of Jose: cloud cover and a little wind, Newkirk said. However, the Carolina coast likely will experience more erosion, due to huge surf triggered by the storm.

Until Beaufort County Emergency Management knows more about Maria’s path, Newkirk encouraged residents to stay aware and pay attention to locale forecasts.

“We’re in a monitoring phase,” Newkirk said. “As it changes, just stay abreast of it, just in case this decides to shift.”