With Hurricane Florence making landfall shortly after 7 a.m. Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach, the Category 1 storm has brought powerful wind gusts and caused widespread power outages.
But it is the threat of lingering rain and storm surges that now has emergency officials concerned about destructive flooding conditions in the coming days.
A wind gust of 105 mph was recorded at the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office – the second-highest ever recorded there since Hurricane Helene at 135 mph in 1958, NWS officials reported.
Forecasters said during a conference call Friday morning that the eye of the storm was recorded at 15 nautical miles at the time, drifting to the southwest.
"The eye moving through brings its own set of characteristics of wind damage ... but don't forget the bigger picture. This is a large hurricane, and some of the initial challenges we're going to have are with the deadly storm surge," forecasters said during the morning call.
Nearly everyone Duke Energy provides power to in New Hanover County was without electricity Friday morning, according to the utility’s outage report. About 109,000 customers – Duke Energy serves nearly 127,400 in the county – were without power as of 11:30 a.m. Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation was also seeing its outages increase. The co-op reported that nearly 34,000 of its members are without power this morning.
New Hanover County Commissioner Pat Kusek, who lives in Landfall, a gated community near Wrightsville Beach, was using a generator for power on Friday morning.
"We got some damage to a wall in our bedroom. I knew I was in trouble about 5 o'clock in the morning when I was standing on a ladder holding a towel up to the window with the water dripping down my arms," Kusek said. "We didn't know what else to do. It was coming in pretty fast ... We've got it stopped for now."
She said some trees were down around her Kenilworth Lane home. But she said she has confidence in county emergency personnel.
"I'll tell you one thing, I have never been so proud of being part of an organization like those folks over there at the county," Kusek said, referring to her time spent Thursday at the New Hanover County Emergency Operations Center. "They know what to do, they were mobilizing, they were prepared. When I went over there yesterday, I didn't see any panic in anybody's eyes."
In Wrightsville Beach, town officials were able to take a look at initial damages on the island, according to town manager Tim Owens.
“Really we faired pretty well given the circumstances,” Owens said Friday morning.
Downed power lines and cables, damage to rooftops and debris from homes and buildings were some of the town's reported damages. After riding out along the beach, Owens said that for the most part the ocean piers “seemed to be OK.”
The town, however, still had another tide cycle to go through Friday and the storm was not over, he added.
“What we are doing today: we are getting on the island at some point [again] maybe mid-afternoon and do another assessment,” Owens said.
The next steps following the hurricane; the town will reactivate its wastewater system, make sure its sewer system is working properly and work with Duke Energy to restore power to the island.
“Until then, we really can’t let anybody back on the island,” Owens said.
The town anticipates that by the end of the weekend or early next week residents and business owners could start to return to the island, he said.
Reporters Christina Haley O'Neal and Cece Nunn contributed to this article.
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