8 p.m. update: Hurricane Florence’s projected path has continued to shift south, increasing the Lowcountry’s odds of seeing effects of the potentially devastating storm.
The National Hurricane Center is forecasting the storm will make landfall near Wilmington, N.C. on Friday at 2 p.m. It would travel down the S.C. Coast and head inland near Myrtle Beach around 2 p.m. Saturday. The storm would move across the state to the northwest corner by 2 p.m. Sunday.
Meterologist Chris Fisher with the National Weather Service in Charleston said the forecast delays impacts of the hurricane in Beaufort County. It previously was reported that tropical storm winds could arrive Thursday in the county. He said that is more likely going to be Saturday afternoon.
“The arrival to us has slowed down,” Fisher said. “It will hang out a little longer around the North Carolina and South Carolina border,” Fisher said.
Wind is predicted to be about 30 to 35 mph on Saturday afternoon with 40 mph gusts. This would mean a hurricane watch could be put in place for Beaufort County sometime Thursday, Bob Bright, a meteorologist at the NWS said Wednesday evening. Hurricane watches are issued about 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are predicted to hit a region.
With the latest track from the NHC, Beaufort County could see 3-5 inches of rain from Thursday to Monday, Bright said.
Where is Florence going? What scenarios are we looking at?
As of 5 p.m., the European forecast model also showed Florence making landfall near Wilmington and traveling down the S.C. and N.C. coastlines. The model’s path varies from the National Hurricane Center with the eye making a second landfall between Myrtle Beach and Charleston at about 2 p.m. Saturday.
A third landfall would come at Charleston about 5 a.m. Sunday, according to the European forecast model. The storm would then travel inland at a southwest direction. It would move over Beaufort County via land around 2 p.m. Sunday.
Pat Fitzpatrick, a hurricane research professor at Mississippi State University, said the European model is on a “seasonal basis” the best model.
“It doesn’t mean it is the best model on a given day,” Fitzpatrick said. “In situations of uncertainties, we will give the European model a little more weight. Sometimes it captures some information that the other models don’t capture.”
The European model has been forecasting Florence moving a little more to the left than other models throughout recent days.
“The other models had it going towards North Carolina coast and then going north or right,” Fitzpatrick said. “They are now agreeing with the European model.”
The models continue to differ on what will happen when the hurricane hits the state line. Some say it will turn inland and the European models shows the storm hugging the S.C. coast for some time before turning inward.
“You need to be vigilant,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is a lot of uncertainty and still time for a lot of things to happen.”
Where is Florence?
As of Wednesday evening, Florence was a massive Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was slowly creeping northwest at 16 mph about 595 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach.
The hurricane has weakened and stayed the same size throughout Wednesday, however, its total energy has increased which would result in more storm surge, the center said.
Florence “is very large and incredibly dangerous,” according to the National Weather Service. Early Wednesday, the storm was producing waves more than 83-feet tall. Florence is roughly 119,000 square miles, including its tropical storm forced winds — significantly bigger than North and South Carolina combined.
Latest on Evacuations?
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for the state’s entire coast Monday afternoon, then lifted the evacuation order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties late Tuesday morning. However, Wednesday morning, the storm’s path shifted south and west, with projections engulfing more of South Carolina, including Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, and western North Carolina.
Officials in Beaufort County are urging residents to take this storm seriously.
“We’ve had some changes in the storms direction, some that are concerning us,” Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Wednesday. “Everyone needs to be very attentive and prepared to move inward.”
Watches and Warnings in Beaufort County
Storm surge and hurricane warnings do not extend to Beaufort County, but that could change into Thursday.
The National Weather Service is warning residents of coastal flooding from 10 p.m. Wednesday through 2 a.m. Thursday, with possible shallow saltwater inundation in low-lying areas near shorelines and tidal waterways across Beaufort County.
Life-threatening rip currents are expected from Wednesday through Tuesday, with waves at Hilton Head and Hunting Island beaches building over seven feet. The chances of coastal flooding and significant erosion around the beaches, are highest during high tide Wednesday around midnight.
“Everyone should remain outside of the water,” Charleston meteorologists warned in an alert, urging any boaters to take extreme caution as swells approaching Beaufort County could be very dangerous. “Keep a clear distance from the ocean.”