The National Weather Service said Wednesday afternoon that Hurricane Florence’s winds have slowed slightly to drop it down to a Category 3 storm, but warn it still presents a potentially catastrophic threat to the North Carolina and Grand Strand coastlines.
The 2 p.m. Wednesday projections show Florence continues on a path towards the southeast North Carolina coast. However, forecasters expect it to slow down as it reaches the coast on Friday, before turning towards the southwest. Models are uncertain after that point — and whether Florence will move to the north, turn west towards inland South Carolina, or move down the coast towards Charleston.
“As we have been predicting, this hurricane is unpredictable,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in a news briefing Wednesday. “It seems to change a little bit here and there. It’s making predictions very difficult.”
McMaster said more than 300,000 people have evacuated so far, particularly from the Georgetown and Horry county regions. However, meteorologists and emergency planners are now concerned about the amount of rainfall Florence could drop on the state, especially if forecasts about more than a foot of rain hitting part of North Carolina’s coastline are accurate.
“The river basin of highest priority for us right now is the Pee Dee Basin,” Department of Natural Resources director Alvin Taylor said. “Because it also receives a lot of flood water from the state of North Carolina.”
All coastal zones in Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry counties remain under an evacuation order, as well as the entire town of Edisto Beach. McMaster on Tuesday rescinded evacuation orders for Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties.
The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for Georgetown and Horry counties. The agency also put Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg counties under a tropical storm watch.