LUMBERTON — Hurricane Florence this morning remained on a determined track headed toward southeastern North Carolina, but what it does after it arrives is changing, according to the experts.
But the news is not necessarily good for Robeson County, which is still expected to get pounded with rain and high winds beginning on Thursday.
North Carolina and South Carolina are under a hurricane warning.
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Cat 4 storm was centered 575 miles southeast of Cape Fear and moving west-northwest at 17 mph. It had winds of 140 mph and was expected to maintain that strength for awhile.
The hurricane force winds were extending 140 miles from the center, which is maintained would put Robeson County in range. The National Weather Service’s day-by-day forecasts show tropical storm conditions in Robeson County on Thursday and the potential for hurricane conditions on Friday and Saturday.
What has changed is the forecast track after it nears Wilmington, with tracking models now matching up and having it heading south, following the South Carolina coastline. The quicker that
“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely, dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in all three states, opening the way for federal aid.
About 2 million people have fled the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Current models show Robeson County getting 5 to 7 inches of rain, but the Lumber River is far from flood stage so a repeat of Matthew is not expected.
The larger problem locally is the potential for high winds that will drop trees and power lines, causing widespread outages. “This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks. It’s going to destroy infrastructure. It’s going to destroy homes,” said Jeff Byard, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
People who want timely updates are encouraged to use CodeRed, a free app that can be downloaded at the App Store and Google Play.
County officials have said there would be shelters at Lumberton High, Purnell Swett High, St Pauls High and Fairmont Middle schools and they will open at noon on Thursday.
Cats and dogs will not be allowed at the shelters, and should be boarded somewhere. The Robeson County Animal Shelter in St. Pauls is prepared to accept pets for free, so long as the animal is reclaimed shortly after the storm.
Melissa Packard, assistant Health Department director, said anyone who needs home care should bring their caregiver to the shelter and any needed equipment, such as oxygen or nebulizers.
She gave a list of items to bring: identification, personal documents and supplies, medical supplies, medications, bottled water, ready-to-use baby formula, snacks, treats, canned food, can opener, personal and feminine hygiene items, flashlights and batteries, paper towels, diapers, wipes, tissue, paper towels, liquid soap, flashlights, batteries, reading material and games.
Officials with Duke Energy and Lumber River Electric Membership Corporation were preparing for outages that could extend beyond days and into weeks.
Classes have been canceled at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. the Public Schools of Robeson County and Robeson Community College until further notice.
One town has announced a curfew, although others were considering it. St. Pauls is asking residents to stay off the street beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday and continuing until sunrise the next day. Those curfew hours will continue until further notice.
Local grocery stores are reporting shortages of such items as water, bread and milk and were working to restock their shelves. There also, reportedly, were runs on gasoline, but it is available.
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649 or [email protected] The Associated Press and staff writers Annick Joseph and David Bradley contributed to this story.