For complete coverage of Hurricane Florence, click here.

 

Updated at 11:18 p.m.

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Florence was 50 miles south of Morehead City and continuing to move northeast.

The storm is expected to reach land Friday morning with significant storm effects including wind and rain, according to the National Weather Service.

Morgan Simms, a meterologist with the NWS in Newport, said Onslow County residents can expect sustained winds around 60 mph Friday and rain around 20-30 inches, with excess of 40 inches rain possible in the area.

“It’s going to be another wet and windy day in Onslow County,” Simms said.

While the winds tied to the storm have earned it a reduced category, Simms said potential storm effects and threats remain just as dangerous.

“Just because the winds came down doesn’t mean the threats are going to be significantly tampered,” Simms said.

____________

Updated at 11:01 p.m.

North Topsail Beach Police Department has closed the High Rise Bridge.

__________

Updated at 8:18 p.m.

Carteret County Emergency Services officials have advised that emergency medical response efforts will be suspended if sustained wind speeds are deemed unsafe. This is to prevent the unnecessary loss of life or injury to citizens and emergency medical responders.

If you experience a life-threatening emergency at any time, contact 911. Emergency calls received during a high wind event will be responded to in order of emergency

status once the wind speeds have improved, the announcement stated.

________________

Updated at 7:37 p.m.

Just fifteen minutes after a city-wide curfew went into effect in Jacksonville, Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett reported no incidents had taken place.

He said the city has been dealing with other, “everyday” incidents Thursday.

“We dealt with things that were just the regular day-to-day stuff and we’ve dealt with things that are more difficult because of the wind,” Hargett said.

After a curfew was issued from 7 p.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Sunday, Hargett said the call was made to keep people safe and clear the way for any first responders.

“We know there’s going to be more power outages, more issues,” Hargett said.

In addition, warnings from forecasters concerning hurricane winds and storm surge needed to be heeded by the city, he said.

Hargett said those needing information from the city of Jacksonville could contact the citizen phone bank at 910-938-5200.

 

______________

Updated 6:37 p.m.

As of 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Florence was a little less than 60 miles south of the Cape Fear Lookout.

Carl Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, said Florence is "absolutely crawling" toward the coast.

The storm is expected to move west toward Wilmington and then Jacksonville sometime Friday, he added. The pace of the storm is a concern for rainfall.

"Because it is so slow-moving, we're going to have bouts of rain for long periods of time because this storm is just taking so long to move out of here," Barnes said.

As Florence moves west, Barnes said residents of Onslow County can expect a "steady increase" in winds, with gusts possible up to 70 mph.

"We're looking at sustained winds in the pre-dawn hours (Friday)," Barnes said.

In anticipation of impacts from Hurricane Florence, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper requested a declaration of disaster from President Donald Trump Thursday.

According to a news release from Cooper, the declaration would add to the federal action already taking place, which is providing FEMA funds in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

_________________

Updated 6:15 p.m.

Onslow County held a 6 p.m. briefing at the EOC where their emergency services departments are set up for the duration of Hurricane Florence.

“It’s going to be a long night,” County Manager David Cotton told the room.

Onslow Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson said the county is starting to see some things happen as a result of the storm, including power issues in Swansboro and overwash in North Topsail Beach.

In the next hour or so is when the hurricane winds should begin, he said.

“We have not gotten the hurricane force winds yet,” Bryson said.

The night is going to get frustrating at times, Bryson said, and they’ll have issues but they have to work together to move past them.

He asked those in the building to conserve the fuel they’re able to, and said they’re working on feeding everyone now.

The next briefing from the county is scheduled for 6 a.m. Friday.

 

_________________

Updated 5:38 p.m.

Water has been shut off by ONWASA in North Topsail Beach and Surf City on the Onslow County side.

ONWASA CEO Jeff Hudson said ONWASA shut the water off at 11 a.m. Thursday.

"Once they pull the emergency vehicles off the road, we go and shut the water off," Hudson said.

Other utilities, including Jones Onslow EMC and Duke Energy worked through the day to keep power up and running for Onslow County, Onslow County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jack Bright said.

“I’m surprised we’ve had very few outages of power so far,” Bright said.

JOEMC pulled their crews back in around 3 p.m. due to hazardous conditions after getting some customers back up and running with electricity.

But with strong winds expected to start later Thursday evening, Bright said it’s still early in the game. Earlier on Thursday, Bright said a tree was blown over by winds from Tarawa Terrace base housing onto N.C. 24, blocking eastbound traffic for some time.

“It must have been a weak tree, because I don’t think it was blowing that hard yet,” Bright said.

Still, he said traffic was less intense moving east as many people made last-minute evacuation plans to head west or further inland Thursday morning.

“That’s why we issued the mandatory evacuation when we did,” Bright said.

The first signs of Hurricane Florence were being seen in the Town of Swansboro Thursday afternoon, but no problems had been reported.

Former Mayor Scott Chase said it is still early, but he has already seen the water rising along the waterfront and the wind picking up.

“The water is creeping above the docks. It wasn’t on the street but it’s coming. It is still early,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick said his family has prepared and will be staying at home during the storm.

At around 4:30 p.m. Chadwick said they were seeing bands of rain, with period of light and then heavier rain. He said they are seeing strong gusts of wind but not sustained.

The power remained on at his house but he had friends in the Cedar Point/Cape Carteret area that reported being without power.

Swansboro Town Manager Scott Chase announced a curfew for the town earlier today due to conditions resulting from the hurricane and a general lack of electric power to the area. The curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Sunday.

Chase said the town was having issues with backup power to town hall but everything was OK at the emergency operations center for the town.

The telephone number for the town EOC is 910-326-5908.

_________________

Updated at 4:28 p.m.

Jacksonville residents were watching out for the first wave of hurricane weather Thursday afternoon.

Jaime Garcia of Jacksonville said he was watching the wind pick up from his home in the Bell Fork homes area.

Garcia said he would head inside once things picked up.

“I’m just going to stay put and not go out and every once in a while take photos,” Garcia said.

A curfew was issued in Jacksonville beginning 7 p.m. Thursday in advance of forecasted tropical winds, according to previous reports.

 

_________________

Updated at 1:59 p.m.

Tropical storm force winds are already being felt along the coast and Hurricane Florence is expected to have a major impact on Eastern North Carolina.

Florence was a Category 2 storm as of 1:30 p.m. rather than a Category 4 but meteorologist John Elardo stressing the category of a storm only refers to wind strength and the forecast remains relatively unchanged: the area will see major impacts.

“The category of the storm doesn’t mean the impacts will be weaker,” Elardo said. “Significant, damaging impacts are expected.”

The track of the storm shifted south toward Wilmington but the Onslow County area is on the side of the storm with the strongest impacts, including major storm surge and flooding from extensive rainfall.

“Onslow County, in this region, will see the worst of the storm surge,” Elardo said.

Coastal Onslow County, including North Topsail Beach, could see storm surge between 9 to 13 feet or more.

The storm surge is expected to begin Thursday night into Friday and will be in conjunction with high tide

All of Eastern North can expect massive rainfall as the storm dumps 20 inches or more in some areas.

“Flooding is going to be a big problem with this storm,” Elardo said.

Elardo said the storm is slow moving and Onslow County is on the “wettest” side of the storm if it continues on the current track. The steadiest rain is expected to be Saturday night into Sunday.

____________

Updated at 1:32 p.m.

County officials have been evacuating residents and preparing to face the weather as Hurricane Florence begins its assault on the North Carolina coast.

According to Cornelius Jordan, Onslow County representative, about 1,100 people and 50 animals were evacuated from the county by Thursday morning.

“We had a lot of calls and a lot of questions about people not wanting to go because of their animals,” Jordan said. But the county allowed animals to be evacuated along with their owners if the animals fit in crates.

Those who chose to stay, Jordan said, need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for the next 72 hours. There may come a point when emergency vehicles will not be able to be sent out because of the dangerous conditions.

“Because this is a disaster storm, we called our disaster team in,” Jordan said.

The disaster team will work in alternating shifts, according to Jordan. The teams have been preparing for such situation for months, including tabletop exercises and sending personnel to Hawaii to assist in volcano disaster relief.

“It’s perfect practice that makes perfect and we’ve been doing that,” Jordan said.

Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said that there have been isolated instances of suspected looting, but that nobody has been arrested yet.

“What we recommend for citizens who are staying behind is to look out for themselves and for neighbors’ property if neighbors are out of the area,” Miller said. “This is one example of were citizens and law enforcement can work together … One thing we strongly recommend against is for people to take the law into their own hands. Obviously they can protect themselves.”

________________

Updated at 1:07 p.m.

The Onslow Water and Sewer Authority (ONWASA) announced that water has been shut down to North Topsail Island and parts of Surf City in an effort to save stored water in the mainland system.

Two crews nearby are on standby and ready to restore water as soon as possible and will have capability of supplying water to residents following the storm, ONWASA added.

Once the water is restored, a boil water advisory will be in effect for drinking. It will not be necessary to boil water for bathing.

Meanwhile in Carteret County, Carteret-Craven Electric Co-op have removed crews during the early stages of Hurricane Florence as winds have already caused around 4,000 outages across its distribution system, CCEC said in a news release.

“Our priority is to serve our members and our communities by keeping everyone informed and by working as safely as possible,” CCEC Communications Director Lisa Galizia said in the news release. “We will not put our crews in harm’s way, and we will not send anyone out to assess damages and begin repairs until it is safe to do so.”

Members could be without power for two or more days, Galizia said.

“That prediction will be updated once we are able to get in the field and assess the damage,” Galizia said. “People need to remember, too, that damage may cause outages to systems up the line from us, such as transmission lines, which we cannot control.”

Meanwhile, crews for Jones-Onslow-EMC and Duke Energy remain on the streets and are assessing damage already caused by the storm.

 

____________

Updated at 12:43 p.m.

North Topsail Beach Mayor Dan Tuman spent Thursday morning driving around his town before packing up and evacuating. He saw a car or two, but there were very few people left in town.

NTB has been under mandatory evacuation orders since Tuesday in advance of Hurricane Florence.

“The place is very quiet,” Tuman said. “It looks like everyone evacuated as they should have … I don’t know if it’s 100 percent evacuated, but it’s certainly close to that.”

Once the winds get up to 45 mph, according to Tuman, the bridges that lead onto the island will be closed and there will be no way of getting on or off the island. All town police and fire personnel have set up base at Dixon High School.

“Nobody will stay on the island,” Tuman said, regarding emergency response workers and town officials. “Everybody will be off today by noon.”

Tuman said that anybody left on the island at that point would be on their own until late Sunday to early Monday.

“If people stay and they have an emergency, pardon my French but they’re screwed,” Tuman said. “They can’t expect anybody else to put their life at risk.”

In Maysville, Town Manager Schumata Brown said as of just before noon, the wind speed in their area was up to 21 mph, but the rain hadn’t started.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to begin in Maysville Thursday night, Brown wrote.

The hurricane’s storm surge will back up water in Pollocksville and exasperate “freshwater flooding to near Floyd levels,” he wrote, adding that most of the cross that cross the river in Jones County are inundated and numerous home and businesses in Trenton and Pollocksville could flood.

Areas vulnerable to flooding from Hurricane Florence include the Trent River in Jones County, the New River in Onslow County, Swift Creek in Craven County, and NE Cape Fear in Duplin County, Brown wrote.

In Carteret and Craven counties the Carteret-Craven Electric Co-op (CCEC) announced they’ve pulled in all of their crews to wait out the storm because wind conditions have made it too dangerous for them to work safely.

“Wind gusts have already caused an estimated 4,000 outages across the co-op’s distribution system,” according to a press release from CCEC.

CCEC asked their members not to call or send messages when the power goes out as the co-op is monitoring the system to see real-time outage information.

“Our priority is to serve our members and our communities by keeping everyone informed and by working as safely as possible,” CCEC Communications Director Lisa Galizia is quoted as saying in the release. “We will not put our crews in harm’s way, and we will not send anyone out to assess damages and begin repairs until it is safe to do so.”

This means CCEC customers could expect to be without power for two days or more, according to the release. That prediction will be updated once CCEC can get into the field and assess damages.

Jones-Onslow Electric Company is reporting 405 customers without power in Onslow County and 46 without power in Jones County. JOEMC Spokesman Steve Goodson said company crews are still out working at this time.

Duke Energy’s outage map shows 27 without power in Surf City due to damage to their equipment, one in the Hubert/Swansboro area, and 1099 in the Atlantic Beach and Newport areas for which they are assessing the damage.

_________________

Updated at 12:13 p.m.

All was quiet Thursday in Richlands as noon approached and town officials remained cautious as Hurricane Florence approached.

The hurricane’s track has shifted southward but Town Administrator Gregg Whitehead said the town and county are still expecting major impacts from the storm, which was at Category 2 hurricane with sustained 101 mph winds.

Hurricane force winds and the massive rain expected with the hurricane remain a concern.

“There is a high potential for flooding,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said they’ve seen major flooding with past storms and just as much rain if not more is likely.

“During Hurricane Floyd, Richlands was an island for a couple of days,” he said.

Richlands declared a mandatory evacuation and Whitehead said it looked like “quite a few” of the town’s residents had complied.

The town has not enacted a curfew at this time.

Whitehead said he is staying at town hall during the storm along with police and public safety officials.

____________

Updated at 11:17 a.m.

Representatives for Jones-Onslow EMC and Duke Energy offered final advice to residents leading up to Hurricane Florence’s arrival Thursday.

“The winds are starting to pick up this afternoon so folks need to stay in their houses if they chose to stay here,” Steve Goodson, the vice president of Energy Services for Jones-Onslow EMC, said. “And if power goes out, don’t assume we know about it so call us. But please stay away from the power lines. Don’t assume that because they are down, they are not active.”

Duke Energy spokesperson Shawna Berger asked residents not to call 911 to report down power lines, but instead call Duke.

“Consider all down lines and trees near them as hazards and energized,” she said. “And when you report outages, you only need to report it once.”

Goodson said JOEMC will try to restore power quickly after it goes out, but added the speed of the restoration will depend on the conditions outside.

“Our guys will continue to work if power goes out as long as it is safe for them to be on the road and be on the bucket trucks,” he said. “Once it’s deemed unsafe because of the certain speeds and road conditions become unsafe, our guy will come back in because it’s all about safety. They will come in and go to their families or our warehouses and ride out the storm.

“As soon as it’s safe on the road, our guys and another 300 guys (from out of the area) will be rolling in to get power back on. The big thing is that everybody needs to hunker down and be patient. We will get to you as soon as we can.”

Berger asked for the same.

“This is going to be a historic weather event so power could take weeks to restore,” she said. “I just want to make sure people know we will have an army of 20,000 people in place to attack the power restoration as soon as it is safe to do so. We will work our way out as quickly as it is safe to do so.”

________

Updated 10:29 a.m.

Onslow County gave a briefing at 10 a.m. which included an overview from the heads of several county departments.

Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson began the briefing explaining that Hurricane Florence is a dynamic situation that’s changed a lot since she formed.

Currently, Bryson said her wind speed is at 110 mph and reminded those listening that it’s only 1 mph away from being a Category 3 hurricane.

Tropical storm force winds – meaning winds at 39 mph or higher – have already started and are expected to stick around Onslow County for 46 hours, with 10-to-12 hours of hurricane force winds.

As the forecast is now, Bryson said it will likely be Saturday evening before the rain lets up and the storm surge is expected to be 9-to-12 feet, potentially higher at North Topsail Beach.

It’s still possible for Onslow County to see the eye of the storm, Bryson said.

“Don’t focus on the track because we’ve seen it shift day after day after day,” he added.

There’s a potential for tornados and up to 40 inches of rain in some areas, he said, which would exceed levels brought by Hurricane Floyd.

Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said he and his staff have concerns over people’s safety, including on the highways and in cases of looting, for which there have been some calls coming in. Miller did not elaborate on where these calls have come in from.

“We want every citizen to look out for each other,” Miller said. “We want neighbors to be aware (looting) may be going on.”

Miller also said due to the storm the response times will be longer than normal, but added that local and state law enforcement agencies are working together.

Onslow EMS Division Head David Grovdahl said emergency services are spread out around the county, and Jacksonville Fire & Emergency Services said their first responders are in place and ready for rescue operations, should they be needed.

Onslow Water and Sewer Authority said there have been reports of over wash from the New River, and the current plan is to shut off the water to North Topsail Beach and Surf City at 11 a.m.

Bryson said the county’s next briefing is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m.

 

 

_________________________________________

Updated 9:38 a.m.

During a conference call with Onslow County, Swansboro Town Manager Scott Chase noted Hurricane Florence being a Category 2 with the eye potentially getting as close as 16 miles from Onslow County, and confirmed the winds are picking up around the county.

“Please note that the storm is moving and could be directly over us,” Chase wrote.

Additional expectations include 20-to-30 inches of rain, tornado activity, 6-to-9 feet storm surge with up to 12 feet in some areas, and 10-to-12 hours of hurricane winds and 36 hours of tropical storm force winds.

While no shelters are open during the storm, Chase said post-storm shelters will be considered. No additional information about the post-storm shelters has been announced at this time.

_________________________________________

Original story

Hurricane Florence weakened a bit overnight.

According to the National Weather Services, Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane. It is currently moving northwest at 15 mph with sustained winds of 110 mph, as of this morning, but is still expected to make landfall in southeast North Carolina.

“It’s weakened a little bit,” Casey Dail, meteorologist at the NWS, said, but still stressing that “overall the impacts haven’t changed.”

According to Dail, winds have started to pick up along the coast and conditions are expected to deteriorate throughout the day.

 

According to Hal Austin, meteorologist at NWS, the heaviest winds will be from this evening to late tonight. Peak winds will be sustained around 85 mph with gusts to about 105 mph. During the day tomorrow they’ll be about 65-to-80 mph in the morning and 50-to-65 mph in the afternoon.

“It’s a little bit faster now,” Dail said. “It’s expected to make landfall late tonight, early tomorrow morning.”

Residents of Onslow County should continue with preparations for heavy rainfall, according to Dail, and should evacuate sooner rather than later if that is their plan. She said the storm is still going to be catastrophic with the same life-threatening storm surge.

Families who chose to stay in the area are hunkered down and ready to ride out the storm.

Jeffery Forney says he and his wife plan to pass the storm with family in the Northwoods area, and their hurricane plan includes sleeping, reading and entertaining children. The couple and their toddler live in the Summersill area and opted to stay in Onslow through Florence.

“We would feel comfortable in either location,” he told The Daily News.

“We stayed because we feel safe where we are, have supplies for several days, and a generator for emergency power. We knew some family and friends who are also staying to help if something were to happen with our house. We are well out of flood zones and the area around (here) has never really had flood water longer than a few hours after a major storm,” he said.

Forney said Wednesday night that they were partially relaxed because they did everything they could but also concerned because of the “unknown of what is actually going to happen.”

The couple considered previous storms, traffic in and out of the area, traveling with a child and animals, flooded out roads on the return trip and where the storm would travel after slamming into the coast.

“Once we looked at all of that, it was easier to stay then leave,” he said.

The couple has been asked nearly every hour if they were staying, he said. “Between Facebook, texts, and phone calls we get asked a lot. Especially today.”

But he said that doesn’t bother him.

“We looked at everything And feel we made the right call. When we explain to family and friends they calm down a bit and understand,” Forney said.