LAURINBURG — As many states on the East Coast eye the progress of Hurricane Joaquin, Scotland County can look forward to a wet weekend with or without the strengthening storm.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in all 100 North Carolina counties on Thursday in anticipation of severe weather that is predicted to cause severe flooding throughout the state. The hurricane, if it makes landfall in North Carolina later this weekend, will only increase rainfall totals from independent weather systems dousing the state today.
“We’re hoping for the best, but hope is not preparation nor is it a plan,” McCrory said. “I’ve ordered all state agencies to begin preparation for the severe weather, particularly flooding, that is going hit just about every corner of the state during the next few days.”
Joaquin was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Thursday afternoon as it continued to brew in the Bahamas, but its trajectory is predicted to shift to the east to brush the Outer Banks.
Unrelated heavy rains that began on Thursday night are expected to continue through the weekend, leaving three to five inches of rain on Scotland County and a pair of banner events scheduled for the weekend — Relay for Life at Scotland High School and the Highland Games at the John Blue House.
“We’re looking at more of a heavy rain situation regardless of the track of Joaquin,” Nick Petro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Raleigh office, said on Thursday. “In fact, the heavy rain is expected to come in a couple of batches moving in tonight, tomorrow night, and Friday night.”
That rain could bring localized flash flooding before a projected break in the weather on Saturday.
“We should see the rain taper off Saturday morning and may even see a dry period during the daytime Saturday,” said Petro.
Relay for Life organizers announced on Thursday that the event will be held in the Scotland High School auditorium. Teams will start setting up at 3:30 p.m. today, and opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. All events will be held in the auditorium, including the 9 p.m. luminary ceremony and 11 p.m. closing ceremony.
The Colors for Hope 5K originally scheduled for Saturday at Pate Stadium has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Oct. 31.
Monitoring the weather on Thursday, Scotland County’s emergency services director Roylin Hammond did not anticipate an emergent weather or flooding situation locally.
“Even though it’s been overcast and misty over the last few days, we haven’t received the same type of precipitation other parts of the state have gotten,” Hammond said. “It’s not quite as wet here so we’re not as worried about fallen trees from the ground being saturated.”
He noted that the forecast of three to five inches of rain is not unusual for the area, and that the majority of models predict that Joaquin will remain well east of Scotland County.
“The front that’s coming in is going to have the tendency to push this further out to sea,” he said. “The probabilities of that changing are becoming less and less likely. We have no plans to open our emergency operations center at this point in time, we have no plans to open shelters at this point in time.”
As rain tonight moves west and Joaquin moves northward, causing rip currents, high winds, and flooding along the coast, Petro advised against travel to the mountains or the beach.
“Conditions along the coast, regardless of the track of Joaquin, are going to be pretty rough,” he said. “This is not the weekend to go to the beach. It’s already produced so much energy and so much water moving toward the coast that there are going to be rough conditions.”
Depending on Joaquin’s ultimate trajectory relative to North Carolina, Sunday could bring more rain along with wind gusts.
Search and rescue teams as well as National Guard soldiers, Highway Patrol troopers and Department of Transportation crews are preparing for the weather.
“NCDOT crews are preparing for this storm and will remain on standby as we continue to monitor its track,” Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said. “We are ready to shift resources as necessary to address any impacts, and we urge travelers throughout the state to use extreme caution and avoid driving on flooded roadways.”
The governor reminded citizens to update and replenish emergency kits with bottled water, non-perishable food, a weather radio, copies of important documents, flashlights, batteries and any supplies and medications for pets.
For the latest information on the oncoming weather, the governor advised citizens to stay tuned to local media and listen for updates from the National Weather Service. Information is also available at www.ReadyNC.org and at the ReadyNC mobile app which can be downloaded for free.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.