It’s still unclear whether the storm will hit Southeastern North Carolina.
SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — It’s looking more likely that Hurricane Florence could impact the East Coast, and state and local officials are urging coastal North Carolinians to get prepared.
Florence strengthened to Category 1 hurricane Sunday morning, according to an 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm, about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda, is projected to make landfall early Friday morning somewhere in the Carolinas, according to National Hurricane Center forecasts.
The center projects Hurricane Florence could become a major storm — classified as Category 3 or higher — by Monday.
Red flags were flying at local beaches Sunday, as a rip current statement from the National Weather Service went into effect.
As of 4 p.m., National Weather Service’s Wilmington office had received reports of 15 water rescues made Sunday at Wrightsville Beach and six at Carolina Beach. Meteoroligist Dave Loewenthal said there would be a high risk for rip currents throughout the week.
“Hurricane Florence will keep the swells coming for the next few days,” he said. “Be very wery of the rip current situation, and just generally stay out of the water.”
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for North Carolina Friday, and announced that the State Emergency Operations Center will activate Monday to monitor the storm and respond as needed.
Schools, parks on alert
While none of the local school districts have announced closures this week, New Hanover County Schools and Brunswick County Schools officials said they were communicating with emergency officials.
Brunswick County Schools wrote in a Facebook post that officials planned to give an update each day at 5 p.m., starting Monday, on whether schools would remain open.
“We understand the concern over the hurricane forecast,” the post read. “We are monitoring the situation with our emergency service counterparts in the county and state, including meetings Monday morning, and will make a decision on potential school closings as soon as more information is available.”
Monday afternoon, Moores Creek National Battlefield in Pender County announced it will close Monday and will not reopen until after the storm passes.
“Due to lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the park is taking extra precautions to secure items and get the park ready for recovery,” a post on the national park’s Facebook page read.
Whether or not Florence makes a direct hit in the Carolinas, locals are advised to make sure their emergency preparedness kits are up to date.
The state emergency office recommends that kits have enough supplies for every person in your household for three to seven days. In addition to non-perishable and canned food, kits should contain a first aid kit, hygiene supplies, a batter-powered or hand-cranked radio to monitor emergency broadcasts, presciption medications and other supplies.
For a full list of recommended items, visit ReadyNC.org/EN/Plan_GetAKit.html.
If you have a pet, make sure he has his own store of supplies, including an ID tag and current photos in case he gets lost.
Some local stores already showed evidence of people getting prepared. By 1 p.m. Sunday, water bottle shelves at the Monkey Junction and Leland Walmarts were emptied, pictures showed.
Planning and communication
Families should also have a standing emergency plan that every member of the household understands, according to the state office. Keep contact numbers for family and friends handy, and make sure they are aware if you are expecting severe weather in your area.
For families that decide to leave the area in the event of severe weather, the N.C. Department of Transportation maintains a list of evacuation routes here: www.NCDOT.gov/travel-maps/maps/Pages/evacuation-routes.aspx.
Pender County Emergency Management posted on social media Sunday advising people to make sure their important personal documents are in a safe place, in higher cabinets or in waterproof bags. Several Pender County homes were inundated by flood waters in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.
Documents such as birth and marriage certificates, mortgage papers and insurance policies should be kept in a safety deposit box, the office advised. Copies of insurance policies, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and bank records should also be included in your emergency kit.
The Pender emergency management office also advised residents to monitor its social media page as the storm approaches.
“As of the latest forecast we are looking at landfall at the end of the week,” the office posted on Facebook. “As we track the storm, and if measures are necessary regarding shelters, voluntary evacuations or mandatory evacuations will be made and announced here and through the media.”
Local emergency management offices also advised residents to sign up for emergency alerts from their respective counties:
CodeRED Brunswick County: Public.CodeREDweb.com/CNE/en-US/7BC24EDE14D3
New Hanover County Emergency Notifications: NHCGov.onthealert.com
CodeRED Pender County: Public.CodeREDweb.com/CNE/en-US/9FB534DFBC93
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at 910-343-2339 or Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.