A tropical storm watch went into effect for coastal parts of Cape Fear on Tuesday as residents and local leaders prepared for the remnants of Hurricane Idalia later this week.
Tropical storm Idalia strengthened into a hurricane early Tuesday off Florida’s Gulf Coast where it’s projected to make landfall on Wednesday morning. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the hurricane was about 240 miles southwest of Tampa, Fla. with maximum sustained wind speeds of 90 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
Once making landfall as a “major hurricane,” the storm’s track is expected to shift northeast, bringing its remnants over southeastern parts of Georgia, the South Carolina coast and southeastern North Carolina.
The Cape Fear region can expect to see impacts Wednesday night with weather conditions continuing through Thursday, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office. The storm’s impacts will be “greatly determined by the eventual track of Idalia,” according to the forecast.
The Wilmington area is expected to see heavy rainfall with the potential for flooding along with gusty winds, storm surge, possible tornadoes, hazardous maritime conditions and strong rip currents stemming from Hurricane Franklin, a storm developing over the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the Wilmington area can expect to see between four to six inches of rain while other parts could get six to eight inches.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Monday – an action that activates the state’s emergency operations plan and waives transportation rules to help with the transport of fuel and other critical supplies and services. The state of emergency declaration will also help first responders, assist the agricultural industry prepare ahead of the storm and protect consumers from price grouging, according to a Tuesday news release from Cooper’s office.
Local governments and other institutions across the Wilmington region say they’re monitoring the storm track and making efforts to prepare for potential impacts.
New Hanover County has plans to partially activate its Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, said Alex Riley, the county’s communications and outreach coordinator. A partial activation means the center won’t be fully staffed, but emergency management employees will be at the center “monitoring and keeping an eye on things,” Riley said.
On Tuesday, the city of Wilmington announced an adjustment to its trash and recycling schedule in anticipation of Idalia’s strong winds. Customers who typically have pick-up on Thursday are being re-scheduled to Wednesday, according to an email from the city’s communications office.
The city of Southport announced a slate of cancelations and closings on Tuesday, including the closure of the city pier, city dock, riverwalk and all city parks ahead of Idalia’s impacts.
Officials with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington continue to monitor the track of the storm but, as of Tuesday, planned to remain open.
“Based on the latest update from the National Weather Service, UNCW officials have determined that campus operations and classes will proceed as scheduled. However, university officials may need to alter campus operation plans if conditions dictate,” according to a statement from the university.
Pender County Schools announced on Tuesday that its buildings would be closed Thursday due to the storm. Instead, Thursday will be a remote learning day.
Wilmington International Airport remained “open and operational” as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Erin McNally, the airport’s marketing, air service development and PR manager.
“For flight status, we encourage travelers to reach out directly to their airline prior to heading to the airport,” McNally wrote in an email Tuesday.