Maria’s track shifts westward; area under tropical storm watch

Published 7:46 pm Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hurricane Maria’s forecasted track took a turn toward the coast on Saturday morning, and the Beaufort County area is now under a tropical storm watch.

Areas farther east of Beaufort County are under a tropical storm warning.

“Maria’s forecast track has shifted closer to the U.S. East Coast, and it is becoming increasingly likely that some direct impacts will occur along portions of the coast next week. Interests along the coast of the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic should monitor the progress of Maria, as tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed,” according to a National Hurricane Center discussion over the weekend.

Beaufort County Emergency Management is one of those interests: personnel continue to monitor the path of Maria — a Category 2 storm as of Sunday — and its possible effects on eastern North Carolina.

“I think best case, we have some cloud cover and low winds, and worst case, it’s like a nor’easter,” said Chris Newkirk, director of Beaufort County Emergency Services.

Newkirk said only time will tell and that emergency management would have a better idea of what can be expected Monday.

“We’re probably going to see some more wobble over the weekend, and it just depends on which way it wobbles,” Newkirk said on Saturday.

Last week, Hurricane Maria, the 13th named storm of the 2017 hurricane season, grew from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in a day’s time and has since left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, including an early estimate of $30 billion in damages on the island of Puerto Rico alone.

Maria’s future path may look like one of its many predecessors this season, Hurricane Jose, which stayed off the Atlantic Coast to become a tropical low in the northeast region. On the way up north, however, Jose impacted the Outer Banks from afar, with large waves and beach erosion. The National Hurricane Center website warns that swells from Maria will do the same, causing dangerous surf and rip currents along the coast throughout the week. Newkirk said with the shift in Maria’s path this weekend, the dangerous conditions potentially could be accompanied with very low-force tropical storm winds.

Newkirk said emergency services would have an update Monday of what Beaufort County residents can expect for the rest of the week.

“If it shifts any further to the west, we’re going to have to have some different conversations,” he said.