Image: NASA

Hurricane Florence’s path has projected a little higher north, according to the most recent National Hurricane Center forecasts published today. But don’t let your guard down — the Category 4 storm is still heading straight for North Carolina, and Lee County remains on the storm’s projected inland path.

Local government agencies and schools have begun announcing their cancellations, and North Carolina’s governor is on record saying this storm is going to be a “monster.” Here’s all we know about Hurricane Florence heading into Tuesday afternoon:

In Brief

  • Hurricane Florence will be felt in Lee County as early as Thursday
  • Wind gusts locally will reach their peak Friday, topping out between 55 and 73 mph, according to different models
  • The slow-moving eye of the storm will pass just south of Tramway, dumping loads and loads of rain on the area Thursday through Sunday (possibly beyond).
  • Local schools will be closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Many are comparing the strength and speed of the storm to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston and South Texas last year.
  • Water is scarce at local grocery stores, and some gas stations are running out of gas.
Support our advertisers

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 12.04.53 PM
National Weather Service

When it will hit and how hard

As of 2 p.m. today, Hurricane Florence had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was nearly 850 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina. The storm is expected to strengthen today and will be an “extremely dangerous major hurricane,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florence will make landfall early Friday just northeast of Wilmington as Category 3 storm.  If Florence does land as a Category 3 or higher, it will be a rarity in North Carolina. Since 1851, only 10 major hurricanes have done so — the most recent was another “F” storm, Fran, in 1996. Hugo hit in 1989 as a Category 4.

Locally, the wind will begin picking up a little in Sanford early Thursday, and according to one model, wind gusts as high as 30 mph will be felt locally as early as noon on Thursday.

Sanford Wind Gust Forecast (Ventusky projections)

  • Tuesday at noon: 31 mph
  • Friday at 10 a.m.: 45 mph
  • Friday at 5 p.m.: 55 mph
  • Friday at 11 p.m.: 45 mph
  • Saturday at 5 a.m.: 25 mph

Accuweather’s latest wind gust model has the Piedmont and even the Western part of the state susceptible to gusts up to 73 mph. That’s a single mph away from Category 1 hurricane force. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, winds this strong are capable of damaging unanchored mobile homes, trees and shrubbery, as well as outdoor signs.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 11.56.16 AM

Path and projected rainfall

Several models have the eye of Florence (by then a tropical storm) passing just south of Tramway between Saturday and Sunday (image above, with Saturday marked on the right, Sunday on the left).

What does this mean? This will be a slow-moving storm. According to CNN, the storm’s center will move very slowly inland, meaning “rain for days in some places.” “This thing is going to stop, and it’s going to rain — and it’s going to rain. … We could see 3 feet,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

The Washington Post reports the possibility of “life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event” from the coast to interior sections. “Like Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas in 2017, Florence could linger over the Southeast for several days after landfall, unloading 15 to 20 inches of rain and isolated amounts to 30 inches. The Hurricane Center said this ‘could produce catastrophic flash flooding.'”

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 2.36.07 PM
The Weather Channel

Closings, Announcements