LAURINBURG — Hurricane Florence this morning remained a powerful Category 4 story with its eyes on North Carolina, but the forecast track has been shifting slightly northward, which could be good news for Scotland County.
Weather experts, however, continued to warn that the forecast “cone” is a best a guess, and that landfall could occur anywhere from northeastern South Carolina to northeastern North Carolina.
At 5 a.m. today, the storm was located 975 miles from Wilmington and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph at maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. Florence, which is expected to become a Cat 5 hurricane today, is projected to hit North Carolina either very late Thursday or early Friday.
At that point, forecasters seem to agree, it will lose power but turn into a massive tropical storm that will drop double-digit amounts of rain in certain areas of the state. Current models show Scotland County getting 5 to 7 inches of rain.
The larger problem locally is the potential for high winds that will drop trees and power lines, causing widespread outages. The National Hurricane Center’s tracking map this morning showed Robeson experience top winds in the 80 to 90 mph range.
“I think this is very Harvey-esque,” University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy told The Associated Press, speaking about the hurricane that hit Texas in 2017 and caused $125 billion in damage, the most every by a storm. “Normally, a land-falling tropical cyclone just keeps on going inland, gradually dissipating and raining itself out. But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges.”
County officials have a meeting scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. today that will include Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s Office as well as the Highway Patrol and local municipalities.
Officials with Duke Energy and Lumber River Electric Membership Corporation were preparing for outages that could extend beyond days and into weeks.
Duke Energy on Monday issued the following statement: “The company expects widespread damage and power outages as Hurricane Florence is forecasted to be a large and extremely dangerous storm system, packing fierce winds and torrential rainfall. Historical data and company experience indicate that total power restoration from a storm of this magnitude could take multiple days to several weeks — depending on the extent of damage and post-storm conditions, such as ongoing high winds and severe flooding, after the storm passes though the region.”
Classes have already been canceled beginning today at The University of North Caroliona at Pemborke and Wednesday at St. Andrews University. For Scotland County Schools, classes will be on a half-day schedule on Wednesday, then closed Thursday and Friday — which means Wednesday’s varsity football game, rescheduled from Friday, has now been canceled.
Local grocery stores are reporting shortages of such items as water, bread and milk and were working to restock their shelves. There were also reportedly runs on gasoline, but it is available.