At 5 p.m. this evening, the National Hurricane Center extended its tropical storm warning to include a large chunk of the southeast Atlantic coast of the U.S. — from northern Florida to Duck– including the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.
And the local National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City warned that coastal North Carolina can expect heavy rain, flash flooding, at least minimal tropical storm winds, some coastal flooding and beach erosion, and a threat of isolated tornadoes.
“While we were fortunate with Tropical Depression 8 passing off the coast earlier this week,” Dare County said in a news release, “Hermine will bring impacts as the storm approaches.”
Hyde County has issued a mandatory evacuation for all visitors from Ocracoke Island.
“At this time, we do not anticipate an (Emergency Operations Center)activation,” said Drew Pearson, director of Dare County Emergency Management. “All Dare County public safety agencies are taking action to ensure we are ready for the winds, rain and ocean conditions expected to arrive tomorrow and be with us until late Saturday.”
The Hurricane Center said that at 5 p.m., the center of Hurricane Hermine was located in the Gulf of Mexico about 85 miles south of Apalachicola, Fla. — about 720 miles southwest of Buxton — and was moving north-northwest near 14 miles per hour. On its current track, the hurricane is expected to make landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida late tonight or early Friday morning.
Maximum sustained winds were near 75 mph with higher gusts. Some slight additional strengthening is forecast before landfall. Weakening will begin after Hermine crosses the coast.
After Hermine makes landfall, the storm is forecast to move northeast just inland from the coast through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina — heading back over the open water on Saturday afternoon near the North Carolina-Virginia border.
“Do not focus on the center track,” the local National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City, said in its morning briefing. “The entire area will experience minor to some moderate impacts from Hermine. Minor track changes will result in very different impacts for specific locations, especially regarding potential storm surge.”
Rainfall could begin as early as tonight with a cold front approaching from the northeast that will stall over the North Carolina coast.
Rainfall from the tropical system will begin on Friday and continue into the day on Saturday, ending sometime Saturday evening. Widespread 5- to 8-inch rainfall amounts are forecast with possible isolated amounts to 10 inches. A flash flood watch is in effect until 8 p.m. on Saturday.
There is also a threat of isolated tornadoes for the area. The most likely time for tornadoes, the Weather Service says, will be Friday night into early Saturday morning, and a tornado watch could be issued on Friday.
At least minimal tropical storm force winds of 40 mph are possible across the entire area. Along the coast, winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts to 55 mph or 60 are possible. The strongest sustained winds will be Friday night through Saturday, lingering into early Saturday night across the Outer Banks.
“It’s not the sustained winds we are worried about,” said NWS meteorologist David Glenn. “It’s the gusts.”
Seas are forecast to peak as high as 15 to 20 feet, bringing the threat of coastal flooding and beach erosion.
Forecasters say all coastal areas along the sounds and ocean are at risk of at least minor soundside flooding of up to a foot above ground in low lying areas. Some areas may receive moderate storm surge flooding of up to 3 feet above ground, but the Weather Service says, “given track uncertainties, it is too early to identify specific areas at the greatest risk. Minor track changes will significantly affect which areas receive the highest surge”
There will also be water level rises on the ocean side with large waves, resulting in at least minor beach erosion. Some spots could receive moderate erosion and overwash.
A high risk of rip currents will continue through the weekend, and dangerous shore break remains a concern south of Cape Hatteras.
Hermine may slow and stall off the Delmarva peninsula, Glenn said, and if that happens, the Outer Banks could see lingering northerly winds, large swell, and wave run-up and beach erosion issues into early next week.
Click here for the latest local NWS briefing on Tropical Storm Hermine.
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View the latest watches, warnings and advisories from the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov/mhx.
N.C. FERRY DIVISION
As Hurricane Hermine approaches, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division is assisting with the evacuation of non-residents from Ocracoke Island. Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation order for island visitors on Thursday afternoon.
Only residents, homeowners, or vendors with an Ocracoke re-entry sticker on their vehicles will be allowed on ferries inbound to Ocracoke. Priority boarding has been suspended for all vessels leaving Ocracoke, and tolls have been waived for ferries heading from Ocracoke to Cedar Island or Swan Quarter.
“We encourage all visitors on the island to calmly evacuate Ocracoke as soon as possible,” said Ferry Division Directory Ed Goodwin. “We will be running as many boats as we can on the Hatteras route tonight and tomorrow until conditions are no longer safe for our passengers and crews.
“Safety is our top concern,” continued Goodwin. “If weather conditions deteriorate, we may have to suspend service.”
Evacuation procedures will remain in effect for all Ocracoke-bound ferries until Hyde County emergency officials lift the evacuation order.
CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE
Tropical Storm Hermine is expected to impact Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial tomorrow evening through Saturday evening.
Seashore officials closed the Ocracoke campground and visitor services on the island at 5 p.m. today after Hyde County declared a mandatory evacuation for visitors.
Rip Currents: There will be a high risk of rip currents along all Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches. Swimming is not advisable under these conditions. Even under moderate risk of rip current conditions there have been three rip current related fatalities off Seashore beaches this summer, so swimming is strongly discouraged. For more information on rip currents safety go to http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.
Campgrounds: Park staff will continue to advise campers at Oregon Inlet, Frisco, and Cape Point campgrounds of the inbound weather conditions. Camping in tents and recreational vehicles under tropical storm force conditions is not recommended. All seashore campgrounds will operate on a one-day availability basis.
Road Conditions: If you are planning to drive on Highway 12 on Hatteras Island, please be advised that you may encounter flooded and sand-covered road conditions from rainfall, ocean overwash, and wind. Go to https://www.facebook.com/NCDOTNC12 for current NC 12 conditions.
Beach Access Ramps: Visitors should review signs posted at the beach access ramps and use best judgment. Many beaches are likely to become impassable during both high and low tide conditions. When conditions allow for it, resource management staff may need to close portions of the beach in advance of the storm and after the storm while they monitor sea turtle nests and implement appropriate nest protections. Daily beach access ramp status updates are available on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/capehatterasns.
Park Updates: Visitor services, including the opening of visitor centers, may be suspended or delayed during or immediately following the storm. In the event that visitor services need to be altered due to Tropical Storm Hermine, notifications will be made through social media. The social media links are listed below.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Wright Brothers National Memorial