Florence likely to soak Swain County
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Hurricane Florence is anticipated to bring significant rainfall to the region.
More than 1 million residents along the coast are under mandatory evacuation across the coastlines of the Carolinas and part of Virginia.
The path of the storm has been shifting. It is projected to make landfall around 2 a.m. Saturday morning around Wilmington, NC and again in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and then move inland impacting region later in the week, according to projections as of Wednesday morning and downgrading to a tropical depression.
Swain County Emergency Management Director David Breedlove has been coordinating with staff with the National Weather Service to expect the path of Hurricane Florence and the impact for the area.
As of Wednesday morning, Swain County is forecast to receive heavy rainfall beginning early Monday.
The current track of the storm, which changed overnight on Tuesday, puts it on a more southerly path, with more rain for the Western North Carolina mountains. Current projections are for as much as 6-10 inches of rain.
If the storm pushes even further south, it could mean less rain, but it’s such a large storm that it’s likely we will see more rain regardless.
“People should be prepared for a substantial flooding event,” Breedlove said. “If they live alongside a stream or by a river, they should be ready to evacuate. The ground is saturated, and the rain is going to runoff.”
Wind speeds from the storm are not forecast to be too strong for Swain County, with National Weather Service putting Swain County in the path for 5-10 mile per hour winds.
Emergency staff in the county is prepared to respond.
“Emergency management will be monitoring through the weekend and staffing as needed,” Breedlove said. “We’ll be putting messages on CodeRed as things develop. I would encourage people to watch the weather and watch what’s actually happening.”
Swain County Schools issued the following message on Wednesday morning, with plans to remain on schedule at this time.
“Swain County Schools is in contact with Swain County Emergency Management as well as closely monitoring the situation with Hurricane Florence. At this point in time our plan is to remain on a regular schedule. As with any emergency weather situation, events occur in real time, and plans can change quickly.
So remain vigilant, stay tuned to information, if anything changes we will announce it through WBHN, The Smoky Mountain Times and all of our social media outlets.”
Swain Community Hospital and Harrris Regional Hospital in Sylva issued a media advisory Wednesday morning stating the hospitals have initiated an emergency response plan and are taking proactive steps to prepare for the potential impact of the hurricane. According to the advisory, additional staff will be available to accommodate for potentially higher patient volumes and to support transfers as needed.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also preparing ahead of the storm, anticipating tropical storm wind gusts to be severe among the higher elevations of the park. With the potential for flooding, landslides, road washouts and trees on roadways, the National Park Service may be closing roads as early as Friday as well as camping areas and some facilities. For closure updates, visit www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm.
The slow-moving hurricane is being called the storm of a lifetime by forecasters who say it could bring unprecedented storm surges along the coast and heavy flooding inland.
The National Hurricane Center says the storm could cause life-threatening storm surge along coastal areas and potentially catastrophic flash flooding.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency over the weekend, and on Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced he had granted the request for a federal disaster declaration ahead of the storm, helping ensure federal aid will be released as soon as possible.
“We face three critical threats from Florence: ocean surge along our coast, strong winds, and inland flooding from heavy rain,” Gov. Cooper said. “Wherever you live in North Carolina, you need to get ready for this storm now and you need to evacuate if asked to.”