Florence could bring tropical storm force winds to the Golden Isles by late Friday night, although the powerful Category 3 hurricane remains on track for a landfall late this week in the Carolinas, forecasters said Wednesday.
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Hurricane Florence packed sustained winds of 120 mph as it moved northwest at 16 mph, some 385 miles east of Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected make landfall anywhere from Wilmington, N.C., south to the South Carolina border, said Kip Bricker, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
With Florence expected to affect central Georgia after making landfall in the Carolinas, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all 159 counties in the state at around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. No evacuations have been ordered in Georgia.
Its current trek shows Florence arriving offshore from the coast of North Carolina by 8 a.m. Friday, then stalling and drifting south to a landfall by 8 a.m. Saturday near the South Carolina border, according to the hurricane center’s tracking chart.
That landfall would put Glynn County on the southern edge of the hurricane center’s cone of uncertainty, a forecasting model that encompasses the areas most likely to feel a storm’s effects, Bricker said. As of Wednesday there is a 30 percent chance that tropical storm force winds will affect Glynn County, especially along the coast, he said. Late Friday night through Sunday is the most likely time frame for local tropical storm conditions, defined as sustained winds of 39 mph and greater, he said.
Rain, rough surf, strong rip currents and possible flooding remain the biggest local impacts anticipated from Florence, forecasters said.
“Right now, after Friday evening Brunswick would be on the line of the cone of uncertainty and you’ll be looking at a small chance of tropical storm conditions,” Bricker said. “The National Hurricane Center is still projecting the storm is going to make landfall around the southeastern coast of North Carolina.”
Folks in Glynn County are urged to keep abreast of Hurricane Florence’s developments and to be prepared should the storm’s track make a significant shift to the south, said Jay Wiggins, Director of the County’s Emergency Management Agency. City and county public works and public safety officials are doing the same, making sure emergency vehicles and work trucks are gassed up and ready if needed, Wiggins said.
There presently are no plans to open the Emergency Operations Center at the county Public Safety Complex, he said. Wiggins advises residents to obtain their storm information from official sites, such as the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) or the National Weather Service in Jacksonville (weather.gov/jax), or the county EMA (glynncounty.org/557/Emergency-Management-Agency).
After the destructive effects of Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016 and of Irma last September, Wiggins said he trusts Glynn County residents to respond accordingly should Florence become a local threat.
“We’re not out of play just yet,” Wiggins said. “We could see power outages and things like that. We want folks to monitor this very closely, and to finish their preparations if they have not already done so. We just ask that people remain calm. At this point, we’re not anticipating any emergency measures. If that changes will let people know immediately.”
Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles from Florence’s center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles.
The National Weather Service said 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.
Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty. In contrast to the hurricane center’s official projection, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.