RALEIGH (WTVD) —
Hurricane Matthew’s howling wind and driving rain pummeled Florida Friday morning, leaving at least one person dead. Its track is now pushing more north, bringing it even more closer to the North Carolina coast.
The 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center showed Matthew was just offshore of Florida’s east coast, however President Barack Obama warned that he’s concerned about storm surge and that as the hurricane moves north, areas such as Jacksonville, Florida, and Georgia might be less prepared.
The Category 3 storm’s wind continue to be 120 mph.
“Matthew is still forecast to weaken as it nears Charleston, S.C. during the day Saturday,” ABC11 Meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker said. “If that track continues, the center of the storm will stay 50-100 miles south of the North Carolina coast. The main threat for us in the Triangle, and Sandhills, is heavy rain.”
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A flash flood watch is in effect through Sunday evening for areas south and east of Raleigh, including Fayetteville, Southern Pines, Wilson, and Goldsboro.
“We saw several inches of rain last week in parts of the Sandhills,” Schwenneker said. “And even though we’ve has some dry time, rivers and creeks are still up. Right now, we’re expecting 2-4″ of rain in the Triangle, but 3-6″, or more, in parts of the Sandhills.”
Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday morning he’s worried about current projections of Hurricane Matthew that show the storm could lead to heavier rains than previously estimated at or near the coast and power outages from high winds.
“We have seen how powerful this storm is,” McCrory said. “I’m urging residents in central and eastern North Carolina to be alert, monitor the storm closely and be prepared to evacuate if it becomes necessary. We’re very concerned about the heavy rainfall and winds we’re expecting during the next 72 hours. The rains will likely bring heavy flooding and storm surge in coastal areas and dangerous conditions and significant power outages throughout central and eastern North Carolina.”
He says the North Carolina National Guard and emergency equipment are being assembled, including high-water vehicles and swift-water rescue teams.
At Fort Bragg, soldiers are prepared to deploy on short notice if they are called to assist those who suffer from damage or other problems because of the hurricane.
WATCH: Gov. McCrory on flooding concerns
A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of the North Carolina coast as Hurricane Matthew makes its way along Florida’s east coast.
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“From North Carolina, to about Myrtle Beach, winds will get to tropical storm strength,” Schwenneker added.
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott is cautioning Floridians that Hurricane Matthew could still do substantial damage before it passes by the northeast end of the state.
Scott on Friday warned that while the main eye of the storm has remained offshore as it brushes the eastern coast, it could still bring tremendous damage and flooding, especially to low-lying areas along the St. Johns River, including downtown Jacksonville.
Scott said the hurricane “still has time to do a direct hit” and he remarked that “the worst part of this is yet to come.”
Hurricane Matthew approached the state overnight, bringing damaging winds and lots of rain. State officials said that as of 9 a.m. there were nearly 600,000 people without power. Some of the hardest hit counties were Brevard, Indian River and Volusia, where more than half of the customers in those counties were without power.
State officials during an internal emergency management briefing said they anticipated that more than 1 million Floridians could eventually be without power.
RELATED: Matthew hammers Florida, begins dayslong beating of coast
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered an evacuation of the entire Georgia coast, covering more than a half-million people. It was the first hurricane evacuation along the Georgia coast since 1999, when the state narrowly escaped Floyd.
It’s the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade.
A state of emergency has been declared in Wilmington and Gov. McCrory extended his state of emergency to all 100 North Carolina counties as Hurricane Matthew continues to make its way towards our coast. McCrory said he spoke to President Barack Obama Thursday about the state’s storm preps.
WATCH: Gov. McCrory briefs President Obama on the storm
Obama has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, freeing up federal money and personnel to protect lives and property.
Orlando’s world-famous theme parks – Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld – are all closed.
Back in North Carolina, Cumberland, Harnett, Moore and Sampson County schools will be dismissing two hours early on Friday due to Matthew and all after-school activities have been cancelled.
Click here for a complete list of closings and delays
State emergency officials expect Hurricane Matthew’s closest approach to North Carolina to be overnight Saturday into early Sunday.
Matthew is expected to spare most of the North Carolina coast but it could still bring damaging winds, along with coastal flooding.
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McCrory has said North Carolina will be offering resources to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
South Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of coastal communities.
WATCH: State officials urge caution ahead of Hurricane Matthew
However, McCrory said that he wouldn’t be moving any resources from our state in the event the hurricane changes course and takes aim at North Carolina.
WATCH: Chris Hohmann discusses the strongest side of a hurricane
The following counties have started emergency preparations:
Brunswick County: Oak Island has issued a mandatory evacuation for renters. It’s voluntary for residents.
Carteret County: At Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina, superintendent Patrick Kenney said more than 100 trucks were being taken off the island and about 45 cabins were being cleared.
UNC-Wilmington: UNCW has issued a mandatory campus evacuation for all students. The University is closed Friday.
Bladen and Brunswick County Schools will also be closed Friday due to the weather. Pender County Schools will be on a two-hour delay Friday. Numerous area high schools have also changed their football game dates due to the storm.
With the hurricane’s approach, thousands of flight cancellations to and from Florida have been reported across the country, including at Raleigh Durham international.
RELATED: Airlines Cancel More Than 2,500 Flights Ahead of Hurricane Matthew
In Raleigh, Derrick Remer, Emergency Management & Special Events Manager with the City of Raleigh said crews are on standby ready to work through the weekend on 12-hour shifts, on the go 24 hours if needed. While the city is still watching and waiting, they’ve already started conversations with power crews and other emergency operations.
“Crews are ready to go,” he said. “We have our gas tanks fueled our swift water rescue teams are ready to respond. We have a lot of conference calls with our partners at Duke Energy, North Carolina Emergency Management and Wake County.”
“We began discussions this morning,” Scott Hecht, with the public works department in Cary, said on Monday.
He said all of the department is on a critical list position, on standby.
“There’s a good chance we’ll be working Saturday, into Saturday night, maybe Friday night,” Hecht added.
Specifically, they’re talking with the fire department, utilities, water treatment plants and the parks department. Crews are planning to cut away limbs that could affect power lines and cleaning out any storm drains, culverts, known to quickly clog up in storms.
City leaders are also asking people to make sure their homes are prepared, bring in anything that could blow in the wind and touch base with elderly or disabled neighbors in case they need help preparing.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is also warning residents about scams connected to Hurricane Matthew.
RELATED: North Carolina officials warning residents about Hurricane Matthew scams
With the incoming weather, people raced to supermarkets, gas stations and hardware stores, buying up groceries, water, plywood, tarps, batteries and propane.
WATCH: DeJuan Hoggard shows how grocery stores are preparing
Kroger stores across the Triangle are preparing for the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Even though the latest models show Matthew shifting away from Eastern North Carolina, the grocery chain is making sure its stores are well-stocked.
“With impending weather such as snow and this hurricane that we’re dealing with now, it’s always a challenge,” said Ryan Rhodes, the co-manager of a Kroger store in Durham. “But certainly getting everyone out on the front end in a timely fashion; it’s certainly something that we’re trying to pay a lot of attention to.”
In the event Matthew has a significant impact on the Triangle, Rhodes says all hands will be on deck regardless.
ABC11’s team of meteorologists continues to watch the storm and where its path may go.
WATCH: Chris Hohmann explains how hurricanes are categorized
Meanwhile, Duke Energy is on alert as they track the storm’s path. They say they’re preparing for a major power outage event.
The state’s largest energy provider hasn’t had to prepare for this kind of potential storm, in some time.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Category 3. That’s in the “Fran” category, if you will, so it’s a sizable storm,” Jeff Brooks, a Duke Energy spokesman, said.
The Red Cross is also urging residents in Eastern North Carolina to be prepared.
“The better prepared folks are, the safer they will be should Hurricane Matthew impact our coastline,” said Barry Porter, regional chief executive officer of the Red Cross in Eastern NC. “The Red Cross encourages residents to build a kit of necessities, ready their homes, and make a plan with their families.”
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McCrory said that officials are concerned about damage on the coast and inland because the ground is already saturated and river levels are high.
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The ABC11 Weather Team will keep you updated with the latest.
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