September 2, 2016



Hermine forecast to intensify offshore, increasing surge threat

By IRENE NOLAN 


On what should be the last busy weekend of the tourist season, there are more vehicles headed north off Hatteras Island than there are headed south to celebrate summer's last hurrah.

And the visitors have already left Ocracoke Island -- ordered to evacuate yesterday, ahead of the arrival of what is now Tropical Storm Hermine.

The local National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City said this afternoon that the storm is expected to intensify on Saturday afternoon as it moves off the North Carolina coast, resulting in stronger winds over the Outer Banks than had been previously forecast and an increased threat of storm surge and beach erosion.

Hermine came ashore about 1:30 a.m. Friday morning near St. Marks, Fla., and has spent today moving northeast, just inland from the coast through Georgia and South Carolina. This evening, was about 55 miles north-northeast of Hilton Head, S.C., and forecast to move into North Carolina overnight.

The National Hurricane Center said that at 5 p.m., Hermine was moving northeast near 20 miles an hour with a reduction in forward speed expected on Saturday.  On the forecast track, the NHC said, the center of Hermine will move across coastal South Carolina this evening, move over coastal North Carolina tonight, and move offshore of the North Carolina coast on Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds at 5 p.m. were 50 mph with higher gusts.  Little change in strength is expect through Saturday morning, though strengthening is forecast once the center of Hermine moves offshore on Saturday afternoon.

The storm, as it increases in strength, is also expected to slow down and stall off the Delmarva/New Jersey coast. As a result, the oceanside of the Outer Banks could experience  battering large waves and elevated water levels into the middle of next week -- resulting in significant erosion issues on the northern beaches.

The tropical storm warning remains in effect for all of coastal North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory has issued a State of Emergency Declaration for 35 eastern counties to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to and recover from the storm.

The rain got started in earnest early Friday morning and by afternoon, getting heavier as the day went on. The storm total for the day by 7 p.m. in Frisco was 1.56 inches.  The wind was sustained from the northeast 15 to 20 mph.

Both the rain and the wind will be picking up as we head into tonight and could approach tropical storm strength by midnight. 

The local Weather Service office is still forecasting heavy rainfall of 5 to 8 inches with local amounts in excess of 10 inches, and a flash flood watch remains in effect until Saturday evening.

There is also a threat of an isolated tornado, and the National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch that is in effect until midnight.

Winds across the area tonight will be 30 to 45 mph sustained with gusts to 50 or 55.  However, as the storm moves off the Outer Banks Saturday afternoon, the winds will increase to 45 to 55 mph sustained with gusts to 60.  Winds are forecast to slowly decrease after midnight and drop below tropical storm force on Sunday morning.

Minor to moderate storm surge flooding of up to 2 to 3 feet above ground will be possible on the soundside of Hatteras Island and on the oceanside of the island north of Cape Hatteras.  Seas will peak around 15 to 20 feet, and oceanside surge is more likely around high tide, which is about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday evening and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

"Minor track changes," the NWS says, "will significantly affect which areas receive the highest surge."

If Hermine intensifies and stalls off the Delmarva or New Jersey, blocked by a high pressure to the north of the tropical system, Weather Service says that the result could be "significant coastal impacts along the Outer Banks with tropical storm force winds Saturday night, very large waves impacting the coast producing beach erosion, dangerous rip currents, large shore break and ocean overwash during the times of high tide especially Saturday night and Sunday with the potential for large waves and at least minor beach erosion to continue for several more high tide cycles into mid-next week."

Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation for visitors to Ocracoke yesterday evening, keeping ferries busy.

Earlier today, North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division had eight vessels in Hatteras/Ocracoke working on the evacuation to the north and four vessels working the Cedar Island, Swan Quarter/Ocracoke route to the south and east.

Yesterday, the Ferry Division evacuated 406 cars and 1,161 people through Hatteras, 26 cars and 54 people through Cedar Island and 20 cars 40 people through Swan Quarter for a total of 452 cars and 1,255 people.

There are no evacuations for any area in Dare County, including Hatteras Island.  However, property management companies report that many guests in houses who were scheduled to check out on Saturday morning have already left today.

Beth Midgett, a manager at Midgett Realty, says that some guests have notified the company they plan to arrive as scheduled on Saturday, but, she added, "We have people who are making the decision to wait until road conditions improve."


Click here to read the latest National Weather Service briefing on Hurricane Hermine.

  • To stay up to date with the latest weather and traffic conditions in Dare County, download the free Ready NC App at www.ncready.org.
  • Subscribe to receive email updates from Dare County Emergency Management at www.DareCountyEM.com and follow @DareCountyEM on Twitter.
  • View the latest watches, warnings and advisories from the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov/mhx.

N.C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

N.C. Department of Transportation crews along the Outer Banks and across northeastern North Carolina are preparing for Tropical Storm Hermine as it makes its way into North Carolina and aims for the coast.

In the department’s Division One, which includes the Outer Banks and the northeastern counties, transportation personnel have been prepping since last weekend. Initially it was for a tropical storm that turned out to have minimal impact on Tuesday, but the impact from this storm is expected to be much stronger.

Equipment has been staged in various areas since the previous threat so crews can quickly react to any issues that develop, such as sand overwash on roads. A front loader and motor grader are in place on Ocracoke Island and in Buxton, a front loader is set at Kitty Hawk, and several pieces of equipment are set up in the parking lot south of the Oregon Inlet bridge on Pea Island. Additional staff was shifted to Ocracoke so that workers will be in place to begin cleanup along Highway 12 if ferries should be delayed in restoring service.

Other workers have been ensuring barricades and appropriate signage are on hand, and that chainsaws are fueled and ready to use. Crews are also reviewing safety protocol regarding swift moving water and downed power lines, and making sure they are wearing proper safety equipment. They will be on standby through the weekend to go where needed.

Equipment and traffic safety devices at construction sites are also being removed or secured. At the Bonner Bridge project, the contractor has implemented a severe weather plan that includes relocation of some marine equipment to protected areas and securing of other equipment. Department of Transportation location and surveys staff are on standby to perform a post-storm underwater sonar survey of the existing bridge to check for any issues caused by Hermine.

The heavy rain expected can often bring flash flooding and area residents are urged to avoid unnecessary travel during the storm. If you must travel, use extra care and take precautions:

Residents and visitors can to download the ReadyNC app for real-time weather and traffic information. Road condition updates are also available in the Travel section of NCDOT.gov or by following NCDOT on Twitter, where the storm can be followed at #HermineNC.

FERRIES TO AND FROM OCRACOKE

Based on current forecasts for the arrival of Tropical Storm Hermine, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division will suspend operations to and from Ocracoke Island, with the final ferry departing for Hatteras Island at 5:30 p.m.

The last ferry from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter was scheduled for 3:45 p.m., and the final Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry  departed at 4 p.m.

Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation order for island visitors on Thursday afternoon, following a declaration of a State of Emergency by Governor Pat McCrory.

Ferries inbound to Ocracoke Island have also suspended operations, with final departures from Cedar Island at 4 p.m., Swan Quarter at 4:30 p.m., and Hatteras at 6:45 p.m. Only residents, homeowners, or vendors with an Ocracoke re-entry sticker on their vehicles will be allowed on these ferries.

All routes will resume operations as soon as it is safe to do so.

For real-time travel information, visit the Traveler Services section of NCDOT.gov or follow NCDOT on Twitter.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Because of potential impacts from Tropical Storm Hermine, visitor services and facilities at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial, will be temporarily suspended. Starting on Friday, September 2, 2016, the following are in effect:

  • Noon - All Cape Hatteras National Seashore campgrounds will close until further notice.
  • 3 p.m. - Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse climbs at Cape Hatteras National Seashore will stop until further notice.
  • 3 p.m. - Staff will begin to cable and close ORV access ramps at 3 p.m., with all ramps being cabled and closed by 5 p.m. Access to beaches along Cape Hatteras National Seashore will be limited to pedestrian use until further notice.
  • 5 p.m. - All visitor centers and facilities at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial will close until further notice.
Visitor services and facilities will reopen post-storm after assessments are completed.

There will be a high risk of dangerous rip currents and shore break along all Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches. Swimming is not advisable under these conditions. For more information on rip currents safety go to http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.

CAPE HATTERAS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative stands ready to respond if power outages result from Tropical Storm Hermine. CHEC crews are preparing equipment and vehicles in case the storm causes outages on the island.

When severe weather causes outages, CHEC crews begin working immediately to restore service in a safe and efficient manner. Members should make sure they have CHEC’s outage reporting number, 866-511-9862, available. CHEC will post updates to chec.coop, Facebook and Twitter if needed.  If necessary, additional information will be broadcasted on Radio Hatteras, 99.9 and 101.5FM.

Now is the time to prepare an emergency kit that includes non-perishable food and bottled water, a flashlight, radio, batteries and any other items necessary for getting through a power outage. If you encounter a fallen, sparking or sagging power line, do not touch it. Stay far away, and report it to CHEC or call 911 immediately.


RELATED STORIES

UPDATE:  Tropical storm warning posted for entire N.C. coast
Track of Hermine shifts back toward Outer Banks
Second tropical system in a week forecast for Hatteras, Ocracoke


            
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