First Alert Forecast: Florence a tropical depression, moving away from Cape Fear

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Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m. Friday and now torrential downpours, heavy flooding and the threat of tornadoes are continuing to wreak havoc on the region. The storm is now a tropical depression and despite weakening, remains a threat we can’t ignore. Please continue to expend your energy not on anxiety, but on safety and positive action for the duration of the storm and beyond.

National Weather Service-issued Flash Flood Warnings continue for all of southeastern North Carolina through 1:15 p.m. Sunday, September 16th, 2018. These are likely to be re-issued upon expiration. A Tornado Watch is in effect for all of southeast North Carolina until 7 a.m. Sunday. 

TIMING: Florence’s movement will remain sluggish Sunday and shows no sign of picking up speed away from some portion of the Carolinas until late Monday or Tuesday, when high pressure takes what will likely be the storm’s remnants away briskly.

WIND IMPACTS FOR THE CAPE FEAR REGION: Florence has already brought very strong and destructive winds. some strong wind gusts will continue to spread inland. Isolated tornadoes have already spun up and have a history of developing with little or no warning. Loose items can become missiles. Most trees will continue to be stressed or damaged, some will be uprooted. Scattered to widespread structural damage is also likely. You must have a sturdy shelter with an interior room as this windy storm moves through or if a quick spin up tornado develops.

RAIN IMPACTS FOR THE CAPE FEAR REGION: As of Sunday morning, estimated rainfall total over the past 48 hours have pinged between 10 and 20 inches in spots; especially along the coast. Florence’s outer rain bands have the potential to produce more excessive rainfall through early this week. Far inland communities will likely average up to 6 inches of rain, but most of the area will see close to 12 inches or more; even locally 24 or more inches. Widespread lowland flooding will continue to be unavoidable; some spots that have never flooded will flood. If you’re sheltering, make sure you do so in a place that is safe from rainfall flooding.

OCEAN IMPACTS FOR THE CAPE FEAR REGION: water levels along area beach, barrier island, and Intracoastal Waterway communities should recede Sunday. Heavy surf and life-threatening rip currents continue to be an area of concern, so avoid the coast as much as possible.

RIVER IMPACTS TO THE CAPE FEAR REGION: Moderate to major river flooding is likely. On the Northeast Cape Fear River at Burgaw, the forecast crest is currently at 24.1 feet on September 20 (record flooding, previous record is 22.5 feet). On the Lumber River at Lumberton, the forecast crest is 24.2 feet on September 20 or September 21 (major and possibly record flooding). On the Cape Fear River at Elizabethtown, the forecast crest is currently at 36.8 feet on September 20 (moderate flooding). And though complete forecast data is unavailable for the Waccamaw River at Pireway, data from is available from nearby Conway and it suggests the river is also likely to flood as bad or worse than Floyd and Matthew.

BOTTOM LINE: If you chose to shelter, continue to do so, until the storm and the dangers associated with it have passed. If you have left, be patient and be prepared for the possibility that you may not be able to return quickly. There are no easy answers with a storm like Florence, but we will keep you updated the very best that we can. Thank you for trusting your First Alert Weather Team on television, the web, social media, and your WECT Weather App!



ELSEWHERE IN THE TROPICS: Tropical Storm Helene, Tropical Storm Isaac and Tropical Storm Joyce do not appear to pose a long-term threat to the Carolinas. This week, Helene will track northward through the open eastern Atlantic Ocean. Isaac will likely track due west into the Caribbean Sea in the same time. Joyce will track to the northeast out in the open Atlantic. 

NEUWIRTH MOTORS FIRST ALERT SKY CAMERA NETWORK: CLICK HERE to enjoy views from the Battleship North Carolina, Wrightsville Beach, Surf City, Ocean Isle Beach, Southport, Whiteville, and Elizabethtown. (Note: cameras not available on mobile devices.)

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