Cautiously optimistic

Published 10:11 am Thursday, October 6, 2016

What a difference a day makes.

Over a stretch of 24 hours, the track of Hurricane Matthew moved east, seemingly avoiding a direct hit on eastern North Carolina, and taking an abrupt right-hand turn and out over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

However, local officials are still keeping a close eye over the track of this powerful hurricane, one that inflicted major damage on Tuesday in Haiti and was making a beeline for Florida’s east coast on Wednesday.

“It’s amazing how quickly the forecasted track changed from Tuesday to Wednesday,” said Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer. “What worries me is if the track changed once, what keeps it from changing again and return to making headway towards us.

“Let’s just say right now that we’re cautiously optimistic that the current forecast is correct and it steers clear of our area. We do not need a repeat of the amount of rain and flooding we experienced here in Bertie County two weeks ago.”

1006matthew-webSauer was referencing the remnants of what was Tropical Storm Julia that dumped up to 18 inches of rain in parts of Bertie County. Flooding was widespread in the county, particularly in Colerain and Windsor. Nearly 160 individuals were rescued from the rapidly rising floodwaters; 58 single-family homes, 54 businesses, 12 mobile homes, and two churches were impacted by the flood. Damages, to include agriculture, exceeded $12 million.

In advance of Hurricane Matthew, Bertie County declared a local State of Emergency on Wednesday (see story, page 1A).

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA put out a media advisory on Wednesday, saying that Matthew’s “significant shift (in track) offshore and further south lessens the potential impact of the storm in the Mid Atlantic region.”

The NWS also predicted that the threat of flooding rains from the storm are also greatly diminished, based on the new forecast track.

Rain remains in the forecast for the R-C area and eastern North Carolina on Friday night into Saturday. The higher amount of rain in the region (2 inches) is forecasted to fall in northeastern North Carolina, but that appears to be associated with a passing cold front rather than from Matthew.

The NWS further stated that the threat of tropical storm force wind also lessened based on Matthew’s forecast track. Onshore winds, with gusts less than 30 mph, are predicted for the coastline. That may lead to minor coastal flooding.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, Matthew’s sustained winds were near 120 mph as it moved across the Bahamas towards Florida. Hurricane force winds extended 45 miles from the eye of the storm while tropical storm force winds were 175 miles outward.

Meanwhile, a high pressure system is building to the north of Virginia and that is expected to turn Matthew out to sea as it moves along the coast of South Carolina.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s ordered the evacuation of coastal areas in and around Charleston and Beaufort counties no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday.

While the storm track of Hurricane Matthew has shifted to the east, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is still urging residents and visitors to monitor the storm and closely follow any evacuation orders from local authorities.

Evacuations of Ocracoke Island started Wednesday morning for non-residents and other coastal areas may order evacuations depending on the track of the storm.

“Wednesday morning we received some good news that Matthew’s track has moved slightly off shore, but we remain cautiously optimistic and are prepared to respond at a moment’s notice,” said McCrory. “This is a large storm and its impacts could be felt well inland. It is still extremely important for residents in the eastern parts of the state to stay informed in case you need to evacuate and always follow the directions of your local emergency officials.”

Even with an improving forecast for northeastern North Carolina, the southeastern corner of the state may be the hardest hit prior to Matthew making its projected turn out to sea.

The storm’s forward motion is slowing, with the latest forecasts bringing Matthew off the southeast North Carolina coast early Sunday morning. Emergency officials there are preparing for 4 to 8 inches of rain. Some areas are already saturated, which will worsen flooding problems. Downed trees and power outages are likely.

The University of North Carolina-Wilmington ordered students to evacuate no later than noon Thursday.

Monday, Governor McCrory declared a State of Emergency for 66 eastern and central North Carolina counties to expedite the movement and activation of any resources to help with storm response. He also waived restrictions for truckers on hours of service and weight limits to help farmers harvest their crops, quickly restore power and expedite any debris removal.

For more information about how to get ready for a hurricane and what to do during or after a storm, go to You can also get real-time traffic and weather on the ReadyNC mobile app. Follow N.C. Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on Hurricane Matthew.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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