Hurricane Michael made landfall early Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle as a powerful Category 4 storm packing 155 mph winds.
Its track will take it through Georgia and South Carolina and into North Carolina this morning as a tropical storm.
Wayne County and portions of the Sandhills and Coastal Plain are under a tropical storm warning until further notice.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday Michael had sustained winds of 125 mph and was located 30 miles west of Brainbridge, Georgia, moving north-northeast at 16 mph.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and waived certain transportation rules.
“I’m taking action to get North Carolina ready for Hurricane Michael, and I encourage people across our state to get ready as well,” Cooper said. “Make no mistake — Hurricane Michael is a dreadful storm, and it poses serious risks to North Carolina.”
Wayne County Office of Emergency Services Director Mel Powers Jr. said that a shelter will open at 11 a.m. today at the Salvation Army, 610 N. William St.
Shelter residents should bring personal hygiene items, medication, and specific supplies for infants, children and elderly.
Wayne County public schools are closed today and on a three-hour delay for students and staff on Friday.
The potential exists for sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 to 50 mph as what is expected to be Tropical Storm Michael sweeps across the state today, leaving the area by late tonight into early Friday morning.
The winds could result in downed trees and power lines.
Isolated tornadoes are possible.
Duke Energy projects Michael could cause 300,000 to 500,000 power outages in North Carolina and South Carolina, based on the storm’s current forecasted track.
The power outage projections are based on the company’s storm modeling tool, which analyzes variables including storm magnitude and track, wind speed, size of the wind field and ground saturation.
Historical data and company experience indicate complete power restoration from a storm of this magnitude could take several days — depending on the extent of damage, crews’ ability to access remote areas, and conditions such as flooding after the storm.
Expect periods of heavy downpours today through tonight that could result in localized poor drainage or flash flooding.
The 5 p.m. forecast from the National Weather Service office in Raleigh calls for an estimated 2.38 inches of rain to fall on the county between 5 p.m. Wednesday and 5 p.m. Saturday.
All of central North Carolina, including Wayne County, is under a flash flood watch from 6 a.m. today until 5 a.m. Friday.
Friday should be sunny with a high near 75.
River flooding is expected Friday into Saturday.
The Neuse River was at 12 feet at 11 a.m. Wednesday, but is expected to drop to about 10 feet by midnight Thursday.
The river is then expected to begin rising, reaching its flood stage of 18 feet just after midnight Sunday and climbing to 20.5 feet by early Monday morning.
The river crested at 27.60 feet on Sept. 19 following Hurricane Florence.
The state of emergency is for 66 North Carolina counties and will be expanded to additional counties if needed.
The order authorizes the use of state resources to help local governments respond to the storm.
It is also a first step in requesting federal or state assistance to individuals and homeowners if needed. In addition, it activates the state law against price gouging, or charging too much during a time of emergency.
Cooper also temporarily waived the cap on maximum hours of service restrictions for trucks and heavy vehicles traveling in and through North Carolina and size and weight restrictions for trucks.
The order will help farmers harvest and transport their crops and livestock more quickly ahead of the storm.
It also can help storm response vehicles and equipment moving into or through the state.
Parts of North Carolina still reeling from Hurricane Florence could see sustained tropical storm force winds from Michael, Cooper said.
Winds will be strong enough to bring down trees weakened by Florence and to rip tarps from roofs of Florence-damaged homes, he said.
Coastal areas also can expect storm surge and coastal flooding. Beaches already weakened by Florence’s towering surge may be especially vulnerable.
Cooper cautioned people who live in flood-prone areas to keep a close eye on the forecast and to be ready to evacuate if asked to.
State emergency management officials are working with local and federal counterparts to prepare North Carolina for possible impacts from Michael, Cooper said.
Cooper has activated 150 National Guard troops who reported for duty Wednesday afternoon.
He also urged North Carolinians to take steps to prepare their families.
“The last thing people cleaning up from Florence need right now is more wind and rain. But this storm is coming, and we will be ready for it,” Cooper said.