NC State Fair braces for the worst: Hurricane Michael

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Hurricane Michael might roll into North Carolina at the worst possible moment: just in time to disrupt the NC State Fair, an event that attracted more than 1 million people last year.

With fair-goers, ride and food operators and agricultural entries coming from across the state, that leaves fair management watching and waiting with fingers crossed. The fair begins Thursday, Oct. 11, in Raleigh and runs through Oct. 21.

“That’s the one thing we can’t control, the weather, especially if it’s a hurricane,” said Kent Yelverton, in his first year as general manager of the fair.

“We do need to prepare in advance, obviously, so of course we are,” he said in an interview Monday. “And after it passes, we’ll take care of whatever the impact is and get everything up and running again as soon as possible.”

Michael graduated from tropical storm to hurricane around 11 a.m. Monday, shortly before the NC State Fair’s media preview was about to get underway.

The storm continued moving north at 7 mph Monday afternoon with 75 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

After crossing the western end of Cuba, Michael is expected to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday. The forecast calls for the storm to turn northeast after that, which would put the Carolinas in its path.

Predictions call for up to 6 inches of rain, winds up to 50 mph and possible flash flooding across North and South Carolina starting Thursday.

That’s not good news for a state still drying out from the deluge of Hurricane Florence, which caused massive floods across Eastern North Carolina last month. It also canceled multiple outdoor events and concerts.

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Even though Florence hit during harvest season, the storm did not affect the number of produce entries for this year’s fair, Yelverton said. He said the number of entries has increased.

As for what happens once the fair starts, bringing an umbrella might be a good idea.

“Right now, the speed and track of the storm looks like about the best we can hope for at this point,” Yelverton said. “So we’ll see.”

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi