Hermine made landfall as a hurricane in Florida before weakening to a tropical storm, but the system continues to promise heavy rains, gusty winds and flooding for the Carolinas through Friday night.
At 7:45 p.m., Hermine’s center was approaching Myrtle Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical storm, flash flood and high wind watches and warnings are posted for a large portion of the two states, including a flash flood watch in Mecklenburg and nearby counties into Saturday morning.
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The Associated Press reports one death from the storm. A homeless man’s body was found Friday morning near Ocala, Fla. Authorities said he was killed by a falling tree.
A Union County sheriff's deputy suffered minor injuries when his car crashed in Mineral Springs on Friday afternoon, Observer news partner WBTV reported. The deputy was responding to a break-in call when he lost control of the car in bad weather, the station reported.
Emergency management officials, mindful that tens of thousands of people typically flock to the Carolinas beaches on Labor Day weekend, urge caution as the tropical storm moves northward Friday. Authorities expect nice weather for the rest of the weekend.
Across the eastern Carolinas, some school systems and government offices are closed or shutting early as the storm approaches.
Hermine had top sustained winds of 80 mph when it made landfall on the Florida panhandle. Shortly before noon Friday, the center of the storm was about 50 miles west of Savannah, with top sustained winds of 50 mph. At 1:30 p.m., Hermine headed into the South Carolina Lowcountry and was expected to push northward along the coastal plain of the Carolinas later Friday and early Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in 33 eastern counties, saying state agencies would rather be “over-prepared and underwhelmed by this storm.”
As part of the mobilization, a Swift Water Rescue Team and a Field Command Unit from the Charlotte Fire Department left Friday morning for deployment in Craven County, near New Bern.
McCrory said the goal is to have coastal areas operating normally by Saturday for the rest of the holiday weekend. Tropical Storm Hermine is forecast to be north of the Carolinas by Saturday morning.
Officials encourage travelers to the Carolinas beaches for Labor Day weekend to consider delaying that trip until Saturday morning, as tropical storm conditions are likely to persist into Friday evening.
The Charlotte area will be at the western edge of the tropical storm, but National Weather Service meteorologists say the presence of a stalled cold front in the region could combine with moisture from Hermine to set off flash flooding.
A round of heavy thunderstorms Thursday evening that were associated with the cold front dumped several inches of rain in parts of the area. An automated gauge near Tyvola Road in south Charlotte measured 4.8 inches of rain, and 2.5 inches of rain were reported elsewhere in south Charlotte. Flooding closed Downs and Eagleton Downs roads in Pineville for a time Thursday evening.
National Weather Service meteorologist Pat Moore said he had “increasing doubts” Friday afternoon that enough rain would fall in the immediate Charlotte area to cause flooding.
However, noting that more than 3 inches had fallen in Columbia and heavy amounts were reported just to the southeast of Charlotte, Moore said he was not ready to cancel the flash flood watch.
The wind gusted to near 30 mph at Charlotte Douglas International Airport shortly before 3 p.m.
The Weather Service’s computer models predict about 1.5 inches of rain Friday in Charlotte, but possibly double that total a short distance to the east and southeast – in Union, York and possibly even southeast Mecklenburg counties.
In the Charlotte area, the flash flood watch covers Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Union, Stanly and Anson counties, along with York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina. Forecasters say they expect much lighter precipitation rates to the west of Charlotte.
Moore said winds will increase in the Charlotte area Friday afternoon and evening, occasionally gusting to 30 mph. That, along with the wet ground, could cause some trees to fall.
Rock Hill police reported a large tree fell Friday morning at Cherry Road and Ebenezer Road Extension. And some minor flooding has been reported in Union County, near Waxhaw and Mineral Springs.
Travelers trying to leave Charlotte by air are also encountering problems. Charlotte Douglas International Airport reports a number of flight cancellations to airports directly in the path of Hermine, including Jacksonville, Charleston and Savannah. Operations at Charlotte’s airport are not expected to be impacted by the storm.
Carowinds announced it will be closed Friday because of the weather. The theme park plans to be open for the rest of the holiday weekend.
The rain forced the cancellation of opening night at the four-day Matthews Alive Festival. Officials said the festival will open Saturday, including the parade at 10:30 a.m..
AT THE COAST
Meteorologists say Hermine will spread a variety of bad weather northward into the Carolinas on the first day of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
High surf, dangerous rip currents, flash flooding, and tornadoes are possible. A few tornado warnings were already issued before daybreak Friday in South Carolina, south of Charleston.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington said shortly before noon Friday that its radar had detected several rotating super cell thunderstorms about 50 miles offshore.
Meteorologists said those storms could move onshore later in the day.
Some trees were reported blown down in a corridor from Charleston up to Orangeburg, S.C.
Horry County emergency management officials warned residents and tourists to use caution during the day. Brooke Holden, an official with emergency management in the county, said officials are not expecting major damage but that areas like Cherry Grove and Garden City might experience increased flooding at high tide.
Heavy rain fell in parts of the Myrtle Beach area Friday afternoon, prompting the issuing of a flash flood warning. More than 6.5 inches of rain fell between midnight and 3 p.m. Friday at Pawleys Island. Farther to the north, nearly 6 inches was reported in that same time at Sunset Beach and Kure Beach.
And a wind gust of 59 mph was reported around 3 p.m. at Folly Beach near Charleston.
Government offices in eight S.C. counties are closed Friday, while offices in two other counties will close early. A number of school systems, including those in Myrtle Beach and Florence, are closing early.
In North Carolina, Hyde County authorities ordered the mandatory evacuation of visitors from Ocracoke Island. Ferries began transporting tourists off the island Thursday evening. Ferry service typically is interrupted by tropical systems. Tourists attractions such as Fort Fisher and Moores Creek National Battlefield near Wilmington are closed Friday.
The approach of Tropical Storm Hermine caused several dozen high school football games to be moved from Friday to Thursday night. Some of those games were not completed until after 11 p.m., however, because of delays caused by Thursday evening’s thunderstorms.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials told athletics directors at CMS schools that any postponed Friday night would have to be rescheduled for Monday. The exceptions are Mallard Creek and Vance high schools, which are playing out-of- state opponents and were given permission to reschedule for Saturday.
A number of other games in the Charlotte area have been postponed and rescheduled for Saturday or Monday.
Officials at Darlington Motor Speedway have cancelled all activities Friday but say they expect to hold their NASCAR races Saturday and Sunday. The Sprint Cup race is scheduled for Sunday evening.
SUMMARY OF WATCHES, WARNINGS
Tropical Storm Warning: In effect along the Carolinas coast. This warning also covers several inland counties in both states. Heavy rain, winds of up to 65 mph, and tornadoes are possible.
High Wind Warning: Posted for the eastern half of South Carolina, including Columbia. Winds could gust to 50 mph.
Wind Advisory: In effect for the sandhills and eastern Piedmont, including Union, Anson, Lancaster and York counties in the Charlotte area. Winds could gust up to 40 mph.
Flash Flood Watch: In effect until early Saturday morning for much of the central and eastern Carolinas, including Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Stanly, Union, Anson, York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in the Charlotte region. Around midday Friday, a few flash flood warnings were being reported near Charleston.
Tornado Watch: In effect until 4 p.m. for South Carolina counties along and east of I-95.