Major hurricane making its way towards North Carolina

Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall along the North Carolina coast in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 15. The storm, which is currently a Category 4 hurricane, is packing sustained winds of approximately 140 miles an hour, and wind gusts of approximately 165 miles per hour. Although Caswell County, a couple hundred miles inland, won't feel the full brunt of the storm, the local area can expect significant rainfall and the potential for flooding over the next several days. 

A state of emergency has been declared in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia due to possible impacts from Hurricane Florence, as it is currently projected to hit the Carolina Coast later this week. 

And while Caswell County is far enough inland that it won’t face the worst of the storm - sustained winds of up to 160 or more miles per hour, plus a 12 to 15 foot storm surge - locals should be prepared for what could be a long upcoming weekend. 

As of now, Florence is expected to be as strong as a Category 4 hurricane by the time it makes its closest approach to the United States from Wednesday to Thursday. The greatest concerns with the approaching storm are strong winds – with gusts topping 100 mph and heavy rainfall – with the potential for damaging floods. 

“The forecast places North Carolina in the bull’s-eye of Florence,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a press conference earlier this week. “The storm is rapidly getting stronger. North Carolina faces storm surge at the coast, strong winds and inland flooding. We are bracing for a hard hit. 

Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina on Friday. He also requested a federal disaster declaration from President Donald Trump to have more resources available across the state. That request was granted late Monday evening.

“North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes. We are a resilient state,” Cooper said. “But storms and heavy wind and rain can affect the entire state. We have a couple of days to get ready. Use that time. Clear your yard of debris now as you review your emergency plan. Gather food, meds, batteries, important papers if you need to go to a shelter.”

State officials are urging all North Carolinians to have their emergency plans ready and to get prepared in advance. Residents with smart phones can also download the Ready NC emergency management app.

“All of North Carolina needs to be alert and ready,” he said.

In Caswell County, heavy rain is expected between Friday, when the storm begins making its way inland, through the weekend. There is the potential for flash flooding, mudslides, and other potentially-dangerous conditions. The local area could see as much as eight to 12 inches, if not more, of precipitation in the coming days. There is a strong possibility that local residents will be subjected to power outages for up to several days. Residents in low-lying or flood-prone areas should consider seeking shelter in higher ground until the rain begins to taper off early next week. 

“Hurricane Florence is projected to be powerful and damaging and as of now, it is headed our way,” said Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas President and CEO. “We are urging everyone in its path to take this seriously and heed to the warnings of officials. Make plans to evacuate, secure your home and pets and get out of harm’s way.” 

AAA Carolinas recommends the following precautions be taken prior to the onset of storm conditions on Friday. 

Before a Storm: 

Locate all of your important records (such as passports, birth certificates and insurance documents) in advance of a natural disaster and secure them in a bank safety deposit box to avoid damage.

Plan your family’s evacuation route and have an emergency plan.

Comprise an emergency kit of bottled water, non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights and first aid supplies.

Do not leave your pets behind.

Secure your property by tying down any freestanding outdoor items. Reinforce your garage doors.

Keep trees and shrubs trimmed to improve their wind resistance.

If you or a loved one depends on electric power for things like medical equipment, make plans to get where it can be guaranteed or prioritized.

Inventory your belongings and keep valuable belongings in a waterproof pouch, including documents and photos.

During a Storm:

Pay close attention to hurricane alerts. Know the difference between a hurricane watch (hurricane-type conditions are likely in your area) and a hurricane warning (a hurricane is expected within 24 hours).

Evacuate if possible. Use the evacuation plan you’ve already prepared, leave early and during daylight hours. Stay calm. 

AAA Driving Tips:

Before Driving:

Do not drive in rainy weather and high winds if you don’t have to.

Check your tires (including your spare) to make sure they have plenty of tread and are properly inflated.

Before the storm hits, fill up your gas tank.

Make sure the windshield wipers are in good shape. The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.

Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle, which includes a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; mobile phone and car charger; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors. 

On the Road:

To boost visibility, drive with your headlights on.

Reduce your speed to account for the lower traction on wet roads and the destabilizing effects of high winds.

To avoid a collision, keep enough open space around your vehicle. Drivers should extend their following distance to at least 5 or 6 seconds, and adjust speed to keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle at all times.

If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and continue to look and steer where you want to go. This will help the vehicle regain traction.

Avoid driving through flooded areas, even if you are familiar with the roads. The flooded area may contain dangers such as debris, tree branches or power lines that are not visible. The best thing you can do is turn around and find an alternate route.