SOUTHPORT, N.C. (AP) — Towns along the southeastern North Carolina coast urged visitors to leave, and the governor warned of significant rains and flooding Friday as Hurricane Matthew churned along the Southeastern U.S. seaboard.
At a briefing in Raleigh, Gov. Pat McCrory warned of the possibility for the worst flooding in the state since Hurricane Floyd inundated eastern North Carolina in 1999.
“These people, I know, remember Floyd,” the governor said. “We need to be ready, and we’re getting ready.”
McCrory based his warning on the change in Matthew’s course, which initially appeared headed for a direct strike on the coast, then appeared to miss most of the coast before predictions changed again late in the week.
“With the recent change in the storm track, more areas in North Carolina are going to be subject to serious rain and tropical winds,” McCrory said. “Again, I cannot emphasize more: Life-threatening rain throughout our state — especially floods and wind.”
McCrory said he was concerned about flooding on the Northeast Cape Fear River, the Tar River at Greenville and the Cashie River in Windsor. The regions were affected by flooding several weeks ago.
Residents of Southport on the southeastern coast were preparing for Matthew with little fear but prudent precaution. Owners pulled fishing boats and kayaks away from the piers at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Restaurants and coffee shops closed early, anticipating customers would avoid venturing out. Schools closed early. The state ferry dock was closed.
Jim and Judy Clary’s 150-plus-year-old Brunswick Inn had no one in the three guest rooms other than three puppies they promised to take for the weekend from a nearby no-kill animal shelter.
“We told them they all needed to be on their way” from the riverfront inn, Judy Clary said.
Brunswick County and its six beach towns and the city of Southport had already declared states of emergency in advance of Matthew.
At Oak Island, Tammy Hinson and Lee Brown were scrambling to collect their belongings and load their cars for a quick move out of the home they just moved into. It backs up against the beach dunes on Oak Island, and their landlord warned that the storm surge from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 pushed sand and salt water 4 feet deep into the home’s ground floor.
“We moved in about three weeks ago, and now we need to move back out again because of the water,” Brown said. The couple and their 9-year-old son, Jaydin, planned to move in with her mother, whose home on the island was farther from the surf.
Depending on the damage their home suffers from the storm, they could be living with Hinson’s mother until the wiring is repaired and the power restored, she said.
“Water and power obviously don’t mix,” Hinson said.
Just up the coast, Carolina Beach issued a mandatory evacuation order for visitors and nonresidents, and considered a curfew if the bridge into the town was buffeted by winds in excess of 45 mph.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in North Carolina on Friday. The declaration puts the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of disaster relief efforts in the state, including providing equipment and needed resources.
If Matthew has provided any comfort for North Carolina, it’s in the city of Asheville, where people fleeing from the storm have filled hotels to capacity, crowded restaurants and provided an unexpected boost to the economy.
Marla Tambellini, vice president of marketing at the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that hotels were nearing capacity, if not already fully booked for the weekend. She said the bureau’s information specialist “easily fielded more than 300 calls and requests due to the storm” over the last few days.