Here we go again? Hurricane Michael could bring heavy rains, tornadoes

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The current track for the storm would bring it through Eastern NC late Thursday

WILMINGTON – Tom Collins started his Monday with a little deja vu.

As the Pender County Emergency Management director processed an 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, he conceded a solemn reaction — “I’ve definitely had better days.”

Nearly a month to the day after Hurricane Florence made landfall, the report showed another tropical storm has its eyes on the Carolinas.

Hurricane Michael is currently churning toward the Gulf of Mexico with a track that brings it onshore somewhere along the Florida panhandle early Thursday before cutting a northeastern path toward Eastern North Carolina.

As of 11 a.m. Monday morning, Michael was approaching the western tip of Cuba with sustained winds of 75 mph. The current track would bring it into the Cape Fear region late Thursday night.

Carl Morgan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, said the storm is forecast to stay slightly inland of the Wilmington area, but that won’t shield it from impacts including rain, wind and the potential for more coastal erosion.

“Right now, we could see 3-5 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts,” he said. “The storm is tracking parallel to the East Coast, but an onshore flow of air will build up water along the coast and could mean more storm surge and coastal erosion, which is concerning for those beaches that already saw a lot during Florence.”

Sustained winds of 30-plus mph and gusts in the 40-mph range are also forecast for the local region, Morgan said.

With so much clean up still lingering from Florence and the ground still saturated, Collins said anything from Michael is likely to be a problem.

“I would expect more damage and more debris,” he said. “Do as much as you can now. If you haven’t got trees cut around your home, get them cut now if they are leaning. What trees haven’t fallen will probably fall. The river is still pretty high, so it will probably rise back up some as well.”

He also advised residents to secure tarps that might be shielding existing water damage.

With people still displaced, Collins said staff will soon have conversations about whether a shelter should be opened for people worried about the safety of their already hurricane-beaten homes.

Alright the current track would spare the region from a direct hit, that path to the left of the Cape Fear comes with an increased possibility for tornadoes.

Collins said the track brings to mind the tornado that dropped in Rocky Point in 2004 from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie, which killed three and injured more than two dozen.

“This storm is following a similar path,” he said.

If there is any saving grace with Michael making a pass at the Carolinas as it still recovers from Florence, it’s the speed at which it is traveling. Florence stalled over the region for more than a day, dumping rain and wind without reprieve. Michael won’t follow the path.

“The fortunate thing is that is expected to be quick-moving storm,” Morgan said.

Although most residents will roll their eyes at the prospect of another storm hitting so close to Florence’s intense local impact, this is not uncommon for the thick of hurricane season.

“We are coming off the peak of season, so it is not that much of a surprise,” Morgan said. “But no extra water would be good at this point.”

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at