“Dramatic shift” in hurricane’s path
Hurricane Florence now appears poised to make a “big, grand tour” of several Southeastern states and elsewhere in the United States before petering out next week.
That’s the assessment from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) meteorologist Kevin Scasny, who’s been tracking the storm since it whirled into life last week.
“Stand by for a change in the next two days,” Scasny said in a Wednesday morning call to the Service’s Southeast regional headquarters in Atlanta, where officials are preparing for the hurricane’s landfall on Friday. “We have seen a dramatic shift in the track.”
As of Wednesday, Florence remained a Category 4 storm, with 130 mph winds.
“This is clearly a dangerous storm,” said Mike Oetker, acting Regional Director of the Southeast region, which oversees 10 states from North Carolina to Louisiana, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “As always, our first priority is the safety of the Service’s men and women who work in communities throughout the Southeast, and we are making sure our personnel put their safety and their families’ safety first.”
National Hurricane Center storm models show the hurricane altering its original northerly path that would have taken it up the coast and into the heart of North Carolina.
Now, revised plans anticipate the hurricane landing near Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday. From there it may “wobble” southward before turning west, Scasny said.
It could track into Columbia, South Carolina, and then roll into Georgia, he said. The storm would lose strength on its westerly course, reaching as far as Macon and Atlanta, Georgia. Then, said Scasny, the storm — by then, a tropical depression, with gusty wind and rain — could veer north into the Appalachian Mountains, inundating western North Carolina and Virginia. Forecasters think the storm may finally head offshore near Delaware and Maryland late next week.
“This is going to be a prolonged event,” Scasny said, “and not just in and out.” The revised storm track has prompted the Service to take another look at preparations. It already has two incident teams ready to respond after the hurricane comes ashore. On Tuesday, it activated a third.
“We anticipate a lot of trees down,” said Sami Gray, who’s heading the teams.
Officials also anticipate rainfall of historic proportions. Same areas of eastern North Carolina could see rains ranging from 12 to 25 inches. Storm surges could reach as high as 13 feet along some coastal rivers.
In addition, the Service has six law enforcement officers ready to follow wherever Florence lands.
Already, some Service offices are readying for the blow. Its offices in Manteo, North Carolina, closed following a mandatory evacuation order.
Before evacuating, North Carolina Service personnel moved seven endangered red wolves that are part of the captive breeding program at facilities in Sandy Ridge and Columbia in the northeastern part of the state to higher ground — the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.
Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist
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