After a week of uncertainty over its future path, it looks like Hurricane Matthew is indeed on the way to our coast.
Officials gathered across the county on Friday to discuss precautionary measures ahead of the coming storm. By afternoon, Jacksonville, Holly Ridge, North Topsail Beach and Richlands, along with Onslow County, had declared a States of Emergency in their respective areas.
Onslow County will have four storm shelters activated beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday. They are at Richlands and Swansboro high schools as well as Dixon High School and Jacksonville Commons Middle School — the latter two can accommodate special needs and are pet friendly.
Officials say that people in Onslow County, including those planning to evacuate and head to drier ground, should be off the road by around 10 a.m. today.
The storm was predicted to be the closest to Onslow County at around 1 a.m. Sunday, arriving 62 miles south of New River Inlet, Onslow County Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson said at an emergency meeting about the storm Onslow County officials held Friday afternoon.
At that time, the beach will be a high tide, which will increase the potential for flooding in the area. Winds of 50-to-60 mph are anticipated in coastal towns, along with storm surges three-to-six feet above normal, according to the National Weather Service in Morehead City.
Jacksonville is expected to see 40-to-50 mph winds, and farther inland in the Richlands area is expected to get 30-to-40 mph winds, Meteorologist Robert Frederick said.
“We’re expecting at least 23 hours of tropical storm force winds,” Bryson said.
Meteorologists in Morehead City also predict up to 15 inches of rain.
“By far our greatest concern is going to be the rainfall,” Frederick said. “Many roads will be flooded.”
The worst of the rain is expected late Saturday through early Sunday, Frederick said.
If a home begins to flood over the weekend, Bryson suggested residents call 9-1-1 for assistance. Those who live in low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding should take advantage of the shelters to play it safe.
Onslow County was in the 66 counties Governor Pat McCrory included in a federal disaster declaration Friday afternoon.
“This declaration makes federal resources available to help local and state government agencies respond to the potential disaster and gives quick access to stockpiles of disaster supplies like bottled water and meals that FEMA has already staged at Fort Bragg,” McCrory said.
Overall, local officials advised citizens to play it safe, stay inside their homes and stay informed through official government and media.
The Onslow County Citizens Phone Bank will be open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Onslow County Communications Specialist Riley Eversull. Citizens with questions regarding the weather event may call 910-989-5027.
The Carteret County Emergency Services Hotline has also been activated for the public. Call 252-726-7177 for updated information.