Raleigh - Governor Pat McCrory urged residents today to prepare as Hurricane Matthew moves northeast from the Florida coast along its unpredictable path.
"We have seen how powerful this storm is," said Governor McCrory. "I'm urging residents in central and eastern North Carolina to be alert, monitor the storm closely and be prepared to evacuate if it becomes necessary. We're very concerned about the heavy rainfall and winds we're expecting during the next 72 hours. The rains will likely bring heavy flooding and storm surge in coastal areas and dangerous conditions and significant power outages throughout central and eastern North Carolina."
As of 8 a.m. Friday, Hurricane Matthew was about 45 miles east-southeast of Daytona Beach, Florida. The storm has shifted slightly northward and is now expected to bring heavier bands of wind and rain further north Saturday as it approaches North Carolina.
Governor McCrory has declared a state of emergency in all 100 counties and a tropical storm warning is now in effect for areas of North Carolina south of Surf City.
The governor said state emergency crews are ready to respond quickly. Swift water rescue teams and North Carolina National Guard resources are already staged in the areas of eastern North Carolina where they will likely be needed the most: Williamston, New Bern, Elizabethtown, Laurinburg and Sanford. High water vehicles are staged in New Hanover and Brunswick counties and other high water vehicles are being held as reserves in case they are needed. Three Helo-Aquatic Rescue Teams are also being activated for deployment this weekend across North Carolina.
Impacts from the storm are expected to be greatest between early Saturday into Sunday morning. During the next three days, the storm is predicted to dump as much as 15 inches of rain on southeastern North Carolina and between 5 and 10 inches of rain in eastern North Carolina, and 2-5 inches in central parts of the state.
The storm is expected to pack sustained winds of 40-55 mph in southeastern North Carolina with gusts up to 70 mph, and sustained winds of between 20 mph and 45 mph in other areas of eastern North Carolina. The governor said heavy rain and winds from the storm could knock down trees, create significant flooding and heavy storm surge in coastal areas, and bring widespread power outages. This could especially impact the Sandhills region which recently experienced severe flooding. The governor has spoken with utility officials and says crews are ready to respond quickly if necessary.
Officials in Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick and Ocracoke have closed schools. Officials with 14 other systems will release students early Friday.
Governor McCrory said local officials are monitoring the storm and are considering evacuations of beach and other low-lying communities in eastern North Carolina. Pender County is under a voluntary evacuation and Ocracoke Island is under a mandatory evacuation for visitors. The University of North Carolina-Wilmington has closed to non-essential employees. The governor said New Hanover County officials are considering evacuations. County officials in other eastern areas will determine evacuation schedules. Shelters have not been opened yet, but counties in eastern North Carolina stand ready to open any shelters to house evacuees if needed.
"Today, I am encouraging local officials to make calls for evacuation very quickly and am asking all citizens and visitors to follow those directions and take this storm seriously," said Governor McCrory.
The governor has spoken with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Rick Scott and is assessing what support can be offered to assist their states. North Carolina is sending a Helo-Aquatic rescue technician and UH60 crews to South Carolina and is assessing what support can be sent to Florida.
For more information about how to get ready for a hurricane and what to do during or after a storm, go to ReadyNC.org. You can also get real-time traffic and weather updates on the ReadyNC mobile app. Follow N.C. Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on Hurricane Matthew.