Flooding continues to be a major threat with 8 to 15 inches of rain expected

A tropical storm warning in effect for Onslow and Carteret counties now includes a tornado watch.

Hurricane Matthew continues to head northeast at 12 mph along the U.S. coast, and officials are warning that along with the expected flooding threat, tornados are now a slight possibility.

“A marginal risk for isolated tornadoes now exists for Eastern NC today through this evening,” the 6 a.m. briefing from the National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City office, which includes Onslow County in its forecast area. “Best chance of a tornado are areas east of Highway 17 on the southeast coast.”

Onslow, Carteret and Jones counties are included in the tornado watch, which is in effect until 4 p.m. today.

However, the biggest impact continues to be the potential for massive flooding in the region. The rainfall forecast calls for 8 to 15 inches of rain, with the potential for higher localized amounts.

“This is a dangerous and life threatening flooding event this weekend!,” the briefing states.

Rivers in particular threat include the NE Cape Fear River at Chinquapin, Contentnea Creek at Hookerton, Neuse River at Kinston and the Tar River at Greenville. Areas most vulnerable, according the briefing, are where the rivers empty into sounds.

The NWS says  peak heavy rainfall will be late this afternoon through tonight.

Officials are discouraging travel this weekend and advise the following:

• Residents in low lying areas should take action to elevate property and move cars to higher ground

• Vulnerable homes and buildings near tall trees should be aware of the potential for downed trees and falling limbs.

• Areas accessible by low lying roads will likely be cut off. Residents, especially those with medical needs in these locations should consider re-locating to safer and more accessible locations if possible.

• Disaster preparedness kits and other safety preparations should be rushed to completion now

• Evacuate if asked to do so

“There is the potential for significant flash flood inundation of three feet or more across low lying roadways and properties,” the briefing states. “Flowing water is especially hazardous and should never be entered into either by foot or vehicle.”

North Topsail and Onslow Beach are noted as particularly vulnerable to erosion due to high surf, oceanfront flooding and breaking waves.

The forecast for seas is 12 to 22 feet with a high threat of rip currents and very rough surf.

Tropical storm force winds are still expected beginning this afternoon.