As the likelihood of a Southeast Coast strike of Tropical Storm Florence increases, federal, state and local authorities are making preparations and urging residents to do the same.
The National Hurricane Center said Saturday the risk of direct impacts along the southeast U.S. coast was increasing.
“Interests along the U.S. East Coast, particularly from North Florida through North Carolina, should closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials,” the center urged.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reminding residents to sign up for local alerts, follow reliable sources on social media, know an evacuation plan, discuss that plan with family, make plans for pets and gather critical documents, according to a press release.
“FEMA encourages everyone to monitor the storm and heed the instructions of your local officials as we continue to track this storm,” said MaryAnn Tierney, FEMA Region III Regional Administrator.
On Friday, the U.S. Navy ordered ships in the Hampton Roads area to set Sortie Condition Charlie in advance of Florence’s projected path. Ships will make preparations over the weekend and leave port Monday.
“The decision to sortie the ships from Hampton Roads is based on Hurricane Florence’s current track, which indicates the hurricane has the potential to bring sustained winds in excess of 50 knots and storm surge in excess of 8 feet to the area, which meets the criteria for getting the fleet underway to avoid storm damage,” said USFF Commander Adm. Christopher Grady in a press release. “Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday evening, freeing up resources ahead of a potential landfall.
“While it’s still too early to know the storm’s path, we know we have to be prepared,” Cooper said in a news release. “During harvest, time is of the essence. Action today can avoid losses due to Florence.”
The governor also waived transportation rules to help farmers harvest and transport their crops more quickly.
“The executive order will help gather and move crops in and through the state more easily and quickly in response to problems that could be caused by Tropical Storm Florence in North Carolina and along the East Coast,” the governor’s statement said.
— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) September 8, 2018
Cooper said emergency management officials were working with local and federal officials to prepare for “possible impacts.”
“We are entering the peak of hurricane season, and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms,” Cooper said.
With dangerous rip currents and large swells increasing along the coast ahead of the storm, officials at North Carolina’s Outer Banks are warning visitors to stay out of the ocean until conditions improve
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency during a Saturday afternoon press conference, noting that “we are preparing for the worst and, of course, hoping for the best.”
The declaration enables the state to put hurricane preparations into effect, begin coordinating resources and allows the use of the National Guard, if necessary.
“This is not an evacuation. It is way too early for that,” McMaster said. “We know that it’s coming and we know that we need to take precautions.”
“Being prepared is always the best strategy,” he added.
South Carolina’s emergency management division increased the state’s danger readiness level and urged coastal resident to begin making contingency plans.
“South Carolina residents and visitors in potentially vulnerable areas should review their plans and consider actions they would need to take if the storm threatens the state,” according to a press release.
We just wrapped up our first conference call with emergency response leaders from across the state. Team South Carolina is ready to respond, please make sure you and your family take steps to be prepared as well. Visit https://t.co/wa9vkSEPfL for the latest. pic.twitter.com/iJkFEuyD6x
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) September 7, 2018
Key local and state agencies have been notified to be ready to respond if the need arises, the press release notes.
“We’re watching Hurricane Florence very closely and it’s too early to tell what impact, if any, this storm will have on South Carolina,” SCEMD Director Kim Stenson said, “It is the peak of hurricane season so even if this storm passes us by, there could be more hurricanes on the way in the coming weeks. It is vital that every resident have a personal emergency plan and be ready to take action if they need to.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday, allowing the Commonwealth to “mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and pre-position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts,” according to a press release.
“While the impacts of Tropical Storm Florence to Virginia are still uncertain, forecasts increasingly expect the storm to strengthen into a major hurricane that could seriously affect the East Coast and Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “Accordingly, I am declaring a state of emergency so that we can begin to prepare state assets, and I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now.”
According to the press release, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia State Police, and other state agencies have already begun preparations for the potential impacts of Tropical Storm Florence.