By Nathan Ham
Hurricane Florence finally made landfall this morning at approximately 7:15 a.m. as a Category 1 storm near Wrightsville Beach according to the National Hurricane Center.
Wind and rain battered the North Carolina coastline on Thursday night with storm surge and rising waters already forcing those that stayed to attempt to ride out the storm to seek higher ground or wait to be rescued by swift water rescue teams. According to a social media post by the City of New Bern, there were approximately 150 people waiting to be rescued during the overnight hours.
According to the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, some locations along the North Carolina coast have already reported rainfall totals of 14 inches and totals could reach as high as 30 to 40 inches before the storm leaves the area.
As the storm continues inland through the middle of South Carolina on Saturday, that’s when things will get rough for central and western North Carolina. According to the latest forecast from Ray’s Weather Center, the worst conditions in the High Country will arrive Sunday afternoon and Sunday night and continue through Monday. Winds will be steady at 25-35 MPH with gusts up to 55 MPH at higher elevations on Sunday and Monday. Rainfall totals are expected to be anywhere from 6-12 inches with higher totals along the eastern half of the mountains.
With grounds already being saturated from one of the wettest Augusts in history and continued showers and storms through the first two weeks of September, severe flooding through areas of the High Country is likely.
The worst of the rain will begin to taper off Monday night and the storm remnants are expected to be into Ohio and Pennsylvania by Tuesday morning.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch that will go into effect on Saturday and last through Monday evening for all counties in the High Country.
Even with many people fleeing the coast and low lying areas in the eastern portion of the state, several area hotels still have rooms available.
Jim Harrison, the innkeeper at the Hidden Valley Motel in Boone says that they have had a few people come up to the motel to get away from the storm in that end of the state, including friends of his.
Other larger hotels have seen an influx of coastal residents coming to the High Country.
“About half of our hotel is nothing but evacuees right now,” said Comfort Suites General Manager Jerry Lemonds. “We do still have rooms available.”
Some hotels did not want to comment on where their guests were coming from.