At 2:15 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for Bladen County due to a northern shift in Hurricane Matthew.
The new alert increases both the wind and the rain values. While Elizabethtown and points northern in Bladen County are still expected to receive 9.92 inches of rain, points south of Elizabethtown in Bladen County are expected to receive 12 inches. With those rainfall totals, residents should expect to see impassable roads, road wash-outs, and flooded structures in low-lying areas. The National Weather Service is calling the situation “life-threatening flash flooding.”
Predicted wind values have also increased. Residents should expect to see increasing winds Friday night, with maximum sustained winds of 42 miles per hour and gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Impacts include downed trees, tress blocking roads, damaged homes, power outages, and some structure damage.
The likelihood of tropical storm force winds in Bladen County is 80 percent, with only a small chance of hurricane force winds.
The slow-moving storm, now a category 2, is expected to come closest to the North Carolina coast Saturday night as a category 1 storm, before turning southward and heading back to the Bahamas or southern Florida.
Bladen County residents in low-lying areas may take shelter at Bladen Lakes Primary School, East Arcadia Elementary, East Bladen High School, or West Bladen High School, the latter of which is a pet-friendly center.
The governor said state emergency crews are ready to respond quickly. Swift water rescue teams and North Carolina National Guard resources are already staged in the areas of eastern North Carolina where they will likely be needed the most: Williamston, New Bern, Elizabethtown, Laurinburg and Sanford. High water vehicles are staged in New Hanover and Brunswick counties and other high water vehicles are being held as reserves in case they are needed. Three Helo-Aquatic Rescue Teams are also being activated for deployment this weekend across North Carolina.