Hurricane Florence could be East Coast threat

Published 11:03 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

Eastern North Carolina could be facing its first major tropical threat since Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Hurricane Florence is on a west-northwest track across the Atlantic, and the storm is expected to strengthen from category 1 status to category 3 Monday, as wind shear decreases in the upper atmosphere and ocean temperatures in its path grow warmer, according to the National Hurricane Center forecast.

Though uncertainty remains in model forecasts of Florence’s track beyond day five, the progression of those forecasts over the past 36 hours has put local officials on alert.

“I’m concerned with the trends that we’re seeing in the forecast models. At the start of this week, forecasters were saying this is probably just a glitch on the radar,” said Chris Newkirk, Beaufort County’s chief of fire/emergency management. “We all know that hurricanes are unpredictable, and we don’t rule them out until they rule themselves out, but we have noticed, in the last 36 hours particularly, a shift in forecast that is not so favorable to eastern North Carolina. And I’m concerned about those shifts as we get closer to the storm. We all know that the closer we get, the more accurate it becomes, and right now, we still continue to stay in bullseye. “

It will be Monday before the National Weather Service starts information-gathering flights into the hurricane to get a better idea of where Florence may be heading.

“We’re starting to get into that window where they’re very accurate. For us, our next critical benchmark as a county is going to be Monday morning,” he said.

Historically, eastern North Carolina has been targeted by category 1 hurricanes or tropical storms/depressions, though major flooding is a real threat, regardless. It’s rare that a category 3 or greater storm makes landfall in the state — the last major hurricane to hit North Carolina was Hurricane Fran in 1996. But if faced with a category 4 threat, Beaufort County would consider a countywide mandatory evacuation.

Newkirk urged all county residents to spend the weekend preparing for Hurricane Florence, rather than wait until the last minute.

“This weekend is going to be a critical weekend, for us in the emergency services and potentially the public. This could be the last opportunity to prepare for whatever happens next week,” Newkirk said. “My two fears right now are, number one, the change in the forecast models and two, that people are going to wait too long to take action, and it’s going to be too late.”

Newkirk said the next update from his office would be noon on Monday.

“Unfortunately, Florence is not the only storm lingering in the Atlantic. There are multiple systems that show potential for tropical development. It is possible that we could be talking about three named storms by the end of next week,” he wrote in an email on Friday.

Large swells caused by Hurricane Florence are expected to affect parts of the U.S. East Coast starting over the weekend, and could  result in life-threatening surf and rip currents, according to the National Hurricane Center website.


FEMA Basic Emergency Supply Kit

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food
  • Local maps


  • Charged cellphones
  • Hyper-Reach: Beaufort County Emergency Management program that reports, via text, phone call and/or email, all real-time notices affecting registered users, including road closures, power outages, watches and warnings, curfews, mandatory evacuations and more. Landlines are automatically registered with the system. If a cellphone is the primary phone, the number must be registered through the Hyper-Reach website. The registration form can be found by going to the county’s website,, scrolling to the bottom of the homepage and clicking on the red Hyper-Reach button on the right.
  • ReadyNC app for smartphones: this free app reports local weather, road conditions, power outages, shelter openings, evacuations and more.