Hurricane Florence forces Buncombe County to declare state of emergency
Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, gives insight into the threat of Hurricane Florence and how long she could last. Florida Today
ASHEVILLE — Buncombe County will be under a state of emergency beginning Friday, putting municipalities including Asheville under the declaration as Western North Carolina prepares for Hurricane Florence.
It begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will last until 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, "unless rescinded earlier." The declaration applies to Asheville, Weaverville, Woodfin, Black Mountain, Montreat and Biltmore Forest.
Emergency management personnel have been ordered to cooperate with the county's emergency management plans, along with mutual assistance agreements. It will allow personnel to be ready in order to "reduce vulnerability of people and property" and "prepare for prompt and efficient rescue, care, and treatment of threatened affected persons," according to a declaration from the county Board of Commissioners.
Chairman Brownie Newman signed the declaration Thursday. As many as 10 inches of rain could fall in Buncombe, the declaration said.
Florence still poses flood threat to WNC
Florence weakened to a Category 2 storm overnight but still poses a significant flood risk for Western North Carolina, National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Carroll said Thursday.
Carroll said the main threat to Asheville and its surrounding area continues to be heavy rainfall with potential for flooding on Saturday and Sunday. Asheville should expect 4-6 inches of rain, with as much as 8-10 inches at higher elevations, she said.
"Mountains encourage more rainfall," Carroll said.
NWS projections show the heaviest rain will happen Sunday. The National Hurricane Center is warning of potential "life-threatening, catastrophic" flash flooding in the southern and central Appalachians through early next week as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.
Carroll noted the storm's forward speed increased overnight, meaning Florence might not linger around the Carolinas past early next week. By early Monday, the remnants of Florence should start moving north, out of the region.
"It looks like it’s out of the area by sometime on Monday," she said, "which is a lot more optimistic than it was."
Governor urges people to heed mandatory evacuation
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is urging residents to remain alert as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coastline, despite changing forecasts. (Sept. 13)
Gov. Roy Cooper, who declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, has urged residents to follow any mandatory evacuation orders and prepare for the storm.
More than 100 shelters have opened across the state, including a 1,000-person facility at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. Cooper said Thursday morning that the so-called mega shelter was already about 75 percent full.
Florence was about 100 miles from Wilmington on Thursday afternoon, with storm winds already hitting the coast.
The National Hurricane Center reported Florence was carrying 105-mph winds. Its center was expected to approach the coast of the Carolinas later Thursday, and then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area beginning Thursday night and into Friday.
- Live updates: Hurricane Florence less than 24 hours from landfall
- 'Don't get complacent,' Cooper urges, as over 100 NC shelters open for Hurricane Florence
- Poverty lies in the path of Hurricane Florence in eastern NC
Asheville, Hendersonville also prepare for storm's arrival
A slow motion across portions of eastern South Carolina is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.
City of Asheville spokesperson Polly McDaniel said Thursday that U.S. Cellular Center General Manager Chris Corl has been sent to help to manage the mega shelter in Winston-Salem. He is helping with external communications as a venue liaision.
Meanwhile, she said, the city continues its storm prep, with crews dispatched to clear storm drains of debris. At the North Fork Reservoir, crews continue to release small bursts of water to increase reservoir capacity and lessen downstream impacts in the case of flooding.
"All of our emergency responders, Public Works and communications employees understand that they may be called upon to work during the weekend or longer shifts, if a storm response is needed," McDaniel said.
The city of Hendersonville also declared a state of emergency beginning Friday.
Public works employees will be put on "call-back" status to assist public safety personnel with debris removal and traffic control, and the fire department will stage an additional engine company at Blue Ridge Fire Department prior to expected flooding at South Main Street and the Greenville Highway.
You can read Buncombe County's declaration here: