North Carolina and South Carolina were on alert Thursday as Ian headed for them after cutting a path of destruction through Florida and regaining strength over the Atlantic.
Downgraded to a tropical storm after hitting the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane on Wednesday, it is expected to become another hurricane Thursday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the entire coast of South Carolina, where the storm is expected to make a direct hit. A tropical storm warning extended to part of the North Carolina coast.
Rivers in North Carolina and South Carolina — the South Santee River and the Pamlico River — also received storm surge warnings from the hurricane center, while others, such as the Neuse River and St. Johns River, received storm surge warnings.
In anticipation of the storm, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued a state of emergency on Wednesday. The governors of North Carolina and Georgia did the same.
“If you haven’t already made plans for every contingency, today is the time to do so,” McMaster said. Thursday. “We can expect a lot of rain across the state, along with dangerous storm surges in low-lying coastal areas. With the potential for hurricane-force winds along our coast, it’s important for South Carolinaians to plan now.”
South Carolina officials said this could be the first hurricane to make direct landfall there since Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which brought a large amount of flooding to the state. According to the predictions, Ian could bring storm surges as high as 4 to 7 feet to the coast of South Carolina.
The city of Charleston, South Carolina, which is routinely inundated and dealing with a potential direct hit from the storm, opened sites for residents to pick up sandbags to protect their homes. City leaders worked with state and county officials to coordinate a response and specifically warned those in low-lying areas to make additional preparations.
“Most importantly, we want everyone to be careful, don’t panic, be prepared and have a plan for how you’re going to take care of yourself and your loved ones,” said Ben Almquist, the city’s director of emergency management. of Charleston, said, according to: local NBC News affiliate WCBD.
The storm is expected to approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday and move inland across the Carolinas Friday evening and Saturday, weakening rapidly as it moves overland, according to the report. hurricane center.
While South Carolina faces the greatest threat from the storm, North Carolina and Georgia could also experience significant flooding due to the downpours and storm surges caused by Ian.
“This storm can still be dangerous and even deadly,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference Thursday. “Heavy rainfall, up to 7 inches in some areas, is likely to lead to flooding, landslides threaten our mountains, and there is a chance of tornadoes and statewide coastal flooding.”
William Ray, director of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management, said during the same briefing that the department had positioned 350 employees in the state operations center and three other regional centers to support any necessary responses. He said for the most part the department has not yet recommended evacuations, but he said residents should remain vigilant.
That was a common refrain from officials in all three states as they urged residents to remain vigilant, even as the storm has weakened after its catastrophic arrival in Florida.
“Just because it’s not a hurricane anymore doesn’t mean storms can’t be deadly,” said Daniel Kaniewski, who served as a deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Trump administration. “As we saw with Hurricane Ida, there were more deaths from that storm in New York, New Jersey than in Louisiana.”
Ida, which hit Louisiana last year before moving northeast, came as a surprise to many in New York and New Jersey. The floods hit officials and residents there with flat feet.
Kaniewski, who is now the general manager of risk management and strategy firm Marsh McLennan, said flood risks after a hurricane can be significant — even if it weakens.
Although Ian is now a tropical storm, it still has the strength to dump a massive amount of rain on the Carolinas and Georgia. It can also suck up significant amounts of water from rivers and streams, creating huge flood risks.
Kaniewski said it could be “absolutely catastrophic, depending on the environment and where that water ends up”.
“The main point, just as it was the main point before it landed in Florida, is that citizens should heed the advice of local officials because these effects can be very localized and based on the modeling, the local officials will know what the effects are likely,” he said.