North Carolina residents still trying to repair damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September are listening anxiously to forecasts of what Hurricane Michael might do on its way through the state later this week.
“Our entire roof is still completely tarped. Fifty- to 60-mph winds and several inches more rain, that’s not going to be very good for our house,” said Cody Cutshaw, whose neighborhood in Rocky Point, outside Wilmington, was battered by Hurricane Florence. “I know other people who have the same problem, who don’t even have a roof. I imagine quite a few people are worried.”
Hurricane Michael, now churning in the Gulf of Mexico with winds up to 100 miles per hour, is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it arrives in North Carolina starting late Wednesday or Thursday morning. Forecasters say the storm will bring gusty winds, up to 6 inches of rain in the central part of the state and up to 3 inches closer to the coast before moving out to sea Friday.
“I know people are fatigued from Florence,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news briefing Tuesday morning. “But don’t let this storm catch you with your guard down.”
Fast-moving Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which crawled along, pummeling the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding. Florence has been blamed for 40 deaths in the state.
But the saturated ground left by Florence makes North Carolina more vulnerable. Wind gusts of 35 mph and more are likely along the coast and could bring down trees and power lines and rip tarps off homes damaged by Florence, Cooper said. And while widespread river flooding is not expected, creeks and streams are likely to rise quickly and water could pool on roads.
“Because of the damage caused by Hurricane Florence, and the fact that there’s still some standing water in places, we have to be that much more alert about the damage that Hurricane Matthew could do,” Cooper said.
Tony Saavedra in the Morehead City office of the National Weather Service said there is the possibility of isolated tornadoes as the storm moves through the state. Those in its path should pay attention for watches and warnings, he said.
Saavedra said people have been calling the weather station to ask about the storm’s potential.
“People are more alert from just having the previous storm,” he said. “They see this coming, and they want to know if it’s going to be bad, or what.”
Traci Roberts, who works at the Bogue Inlet Pier on Emerald Isle, said she was lucky that her house had no major damage from Florence. But many of her neighbors are exhausted from trying to find contractors they can trust to fix damaged roofs or remove downed or leaning trees.
“A lot of people down here just can’t take much more,” Roberts said, and a lot of trees in the area can’t either. “If that storm comes in even with 40 mph winds, we’ll see some more trees come down.
“We’re just hoping the Lord will shine on us and let us breeze through this one with no problem.”
At Cape Lookout National Seashore, park officials announced Tuesday that some operations, such as ferry service to Shackleford Banks, would close until the storm passes.
Cumberland County, where residents still are cleaning up from flooding by the Cape Fear River during Florence, lifted its state of emergency from that storm on Tuesday, just in time to be including in a National Weather Service hazardous weather outlook for Michael.
In Lumberton, where sections of the city were swamped by flooding of the Lumber River from Hurricane Florence, Michael is only expected to bring up to 4 inches of rain. Florence dropped more than 21 inches on the city.
“It shouldn’t be that bad,” said Della Thompson, working the desk at the Comfort Suites in Lumberton. “But we’ll be keeping our eye on the news.”
While Thursday’s weather will be lousy, Cooper said he was not aware of any cancellations, including the opening day of the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh. Forecasters expect Michael will be followed by the first true taste of fall weather in North Carolina this year, with sunny skies and high temperatures in the low 70s both Saturday and Sunday.