Heavy rain and gusty winds from Tropical Storm Hermine arrived in North Carolina on Friday afternoon, well ahead of the center of the storm that isn’t expected to cross the eastern part of the state until late Friday night.
Nearly 4 inches of rain had fallen at Wilmington International Airport as of 6 p.m., with another three inches possible. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for all of coastal North Carolina through Saturday morning. Winds were expected to peak at 25 to 35 mph, with gusts to 50 mph.
As of 5 p.m., the center of the storm was still about 50 miles west of Charleston, S.C., moving northeast at 20 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tropical-storm winds – 35 mph or higher – were blowing as far as 185 miles from the center, mainly on the south and east side of the storm.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday that officials and power utilities had staged extra personnel and vehicles so they could move quickly into the 33 eastern counties where McCrory has declared a state of emergency. McCrory said he was encouraged that Hermine was expected to move through the state rather than stalling in one place and doing extensive damage.
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McCrory urged people to “be smart” and stay away from flooded roads and to be watchful because creeks and rivers can rise rapidly in heavy rains.
In the Triangle, a flash flood watch remains in effect through early Saturday, as anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain could fall. The Wake County Public School System canceled all athletics and extracurricular events after 6 p.m. Friday and said all other events would end by 6 p.m.
Nearly every Friday night high school football game east of Greensboro was moved up a day to Thursday or back to Labor Day as heavy rain left fields waterlogged. Even schools that play on artificial turf – Cardinal Gibbons and Northern High in Durham – were forced to postpone.
A smattering of schools decided to play Tuesday rather than on a holiday, and at least one – Wake Christian – decided to outright cancel its game with no makeup.
By evening, the state Department of Transportation had ended most ferry service in the state. The final ferry to leave Ocracoke Island was scheduled to depart for Hatteras Island at 5:30 p.m.
“I urge everyone in the process of evacuating Ocracoke Island to get to the ferry terminal as soon as possible,” Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin said early Friday afternoon. “Safety is our first priority, and if weather conditions deteriorate before these scheduled departures, we may be forced to suspend operations earlier.”
Hermine is expected to cross the Outer Banks overnight and move offshore by Saturday afternoon. It’s possible, the hurricane center says, that the storm may intensify again into a hurricane off the coast of New Jersey by late Sunday.