RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper cautioned residents on Sunday not to overlook the potential threats of Tropical Storm Isaias, which has weakened from a hurricane.
Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to begin in North Carolina after dark Monday and into Tuesday morning, the governor said at a news conference. The eastern third of the state is forecast to experience gusts of 50 to 65 mph for the coastal plain and 30 to 45 mph in the central part of the state - enough wind to bring down trees and power lines.
“Over the weekend, the storm turned much more inland, which increases the threat of heavy rain, tornadoes and flash flooding in eastern North Carolina,” Cooper said. “Right now, we expect the heaviest rain along the I-95 corridor, with as much 7 inches in some places.”
The National Hurricane Center said late Sunday afternoon that life-threatening storm surge is possible along the North Carolina coast from Cape Fear to Duck. Residents in those areas were urged to follow advice given by local emergency officials. The center said Isaias is expected to be near hurricane strength when it reaches the coast of northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina on Monday night.
Officials hope a fast-moving storm will mean the rain and wind won’t last as long, Cooper said. Still, a lot of rain is expected to fall at once, so he urged residents to be on alert for flash flooding and river flooding.
“We’re coordinating with utility companies, which expect widespread outages,” Cooper said.
The governor has declared a state of emergency, and he said North Carolina has received a federal emergency declaration for 25 counties so far.
Officials also urged residents not to hesitate if local officials urged them to evacuate, despite concerns about COVID-19. Cooper said shelters will be available with screening for the virus. People who have symptoms will be directed to a sheltering option where they can more easily isolate or receive medical attention, Cooper said.
“Don’t let concerns about COVID-19 prevent your prompt evacuation,” said Mike Sprayberry, the state’s emergency management director.
Isaias was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but was still threatening to bring heavy rain and flooding as it crawled just off Florida’s Atlantic coast.
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