It appears that the Charlotte region will see little impact from Hurricane Matthew this weekend, the National Weather Service said Wednesday morning.
“The way it looks right now, it’s not much of a big deal for the Charlotte area,” meteorologist Justin Lane said. “It looks like the impact will be pretty minimal.”
That’s because Matthew, now a Category 3 storm, is expected to veer sharply east and to sea after hugging the coast from Jacksonville, Fla., to Charleston, he said.
A high pressure system in the Atlantic that was expected to strengthen and push Matthew into a landfall somewhere in the Carolinas is now predicted to weaken slightly Friday. That could be enough to allow the big storm to veer away from the coast and move farther offshore.
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That also means that the northeast North Carolina coast, including the Outer Banks, will get lots of wind and rain but not nearly as much as the South Carolina coast, Lane said.
Forecasters cautioned that even a small change in the storm’s path could make a big difference in the Carolinas.
For now, Myrtle Beach is projected to experience rainfalls totaling 5-9 inches.
Residents across the Charleston and Myrtle Beach areas reported that many stores had run out of bottled water, and long lines were reported at gas stations in anticipation of the storm’s impact.
That altered track greatly lessens the possible impact of Matthew on the immediate Charlotte area. An earlier forecast showed a possibility of gusty winds and up to 4 inches of rain in Charlotte, but with the new track, meteorologists said the Charlotte area likely would get only light rain.
School officials in counties east of Charlotte didn’t take a chance, rescheduling a number of high school football games from Friday night to Thursday evening.
Carolinas officials made major plans for the storm Tuesday, before the forecast track was changed.
On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency for 66 counties in central and eastern North Carolina, from the coast to west of Winston-Salem. Evacuations began at 5 a.m. Wednesday on Ocracoke Island, off the Outer Banks. No other evacuations have been ordered yet.
Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency Tuesday and said that evacuations in coastal communities will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Haley declared a state of emergency for counties along the coast and in the coastal plain. She ordered the activation of 1,800 National Guard personnel to help deal with the storm.
“We have decided to evacuate all coastal counties,” Haley said Tuesday. “Our goal is that you get 100 miles away from the coast.”
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The S.C. coastal evacuations mean a number of highways will be closed to eastbound traffic. That includes I-26, which will be shut to eastbound traffic in Columbia. All four lanes of the interstate will be for westbound traffic only from Charleston to I-77 in
In addition, S.C. 544 and S.C. 22 near Myrtle Beach will be one-way only – away from the coast – beginning Wednesday afternoon.
The dangerous with sustained winds of 125 mph was bearing down on the southern Bahamas early Wednesday amid forecasters’ predictions it would be near Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.
Already the hurricane was spreading high winds, heavy rain and a dangerous storm surge ahead of it on its approach to the Bahamas, forecasters said.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew – recently a Category 4 storm and at one brief point a fierce Category 5 – will remain a powerful storm at least through Thursday night.
It added that while maximum winds decreased slightly in recent hours, the fluctuation in intensity was expected and some slight strengthening is forecast in coming days.
At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the powerful storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the western tip of Haiti was isolated and there was no word on dead and injured.
Gov Nikki Haley briefs the press and South Carolina on Hurricane Matthew Tuesday afternoon. McClatchymwalsh@thestate.com
The Associated Press and (Myrtle Beach) Sun-News contributed